There’s no better time for self-reflection (and movie-binging) than Holy Week. For those of you who aren’t as devout as your grandparents would want you to be, four days of no school, no work, and no responsibilities means you have tons of time to chase your prayers and penance with shots of cinema goodies that could help you ponder on the meaning of life.
Don’t expect to find divine intervention by doing so, but do try to take in the homily these films are trying to impart. Who knows, you might be blessed with a deeper sense of spirituality after the end credits.
Break bread with fam and friends on Holy Thursday
August Osage County
There’s nothing like a family reunion to bring out all the rancid skeletons from their closets. When the patriarch of an Oklahoma-based family goes missing, all his children reconvene to take care of their spiteful, drug addict mother. The movie is cold and toxic and dwells on the uncomfortable circumstances of familial dysfunction. With an ensemble cast led by the ever-effective Meryl Streep, this complex drama is about coming to terms with the past and mending ties with the people who hurt you the most—your loved ones.
The Big Chill
This heartwarming ’80s gem is an homage to the niceties of friendship pre-#SquadGoals. After one of their close friends from college commits suicide, a gang of baby boomers hole up for a weekend getaway to catch up, reminisce, and hash out old issues that quickly bubble up to the surface. The movie is a meditation on the effects of age change on the sensibilities of a generation that once thought they were invincible. Fun bonus: all this is done with a savage ’60s soundtrack. Cue the Marvin Gaye!
Suffer like hell on Good Friday
The movie adaptation of author and Dear Sugar podcast host Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name sacrifices the conventions of linear storytelling for a tapestry of provocative imagery that is simultaneously disturbing and compelling. Reese Witherspoon starts as the former heroin addict who, in search of personal redemption, decides to put herself through the arduous trek of the Pacific Crest Trail, where she finds the roots of her personal demons.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Another memoir, another great film adaptation. This time, the focus is on former French Elle editor-in-chief Jean-Dominique Bauby who, after suffering a life-changing stroke, finds himself at the mercy of locked-in syndrome. Even though he was only able to blink his left eye, he was able to write a book with the help of a patient and caring transcriber. He was proof that, despite our disabilities, nothing is more triumphant than the fight of the human spirit.
Mourn a loved one on Black Saturday
Anyone who has ever had father issues should check out director Mike Mills’ engaging drama. It’s the story about a young man’s quest to understand his own identity and forge a love affair with a beautiful French actress amidst coping with the death of his gay father. Strange and satisfying, it’s a lighthearted take on oft-heavy subject matter that can easily bog a viewer down.
When Edward Bloom reaches the twilight of his life, he takes his son on a journey through his amazing life by telling him of his fantastic experiences with giants, Siamese twins, and witches. Whimsical director Tim Burton’s fantasy drama about a storyteller with a big heart (and a ton of tall tales) is more about legacy than it is about mortality and the memories of people that we choose to keep.
Resurrect your outlook on life on Easter Sunday
Questioning the machinations of life and existence may not bother the everyday man, but after you’ve gone through a life-and-death experience, your perspective is bound to change. This is what happens to Jeff Bridges’ businessman Max Klein in the movie Fearless after he survives a devastating plane crash that gives him a renewed (and possibly false) sense of enlightenment.
The Bill Murray comedy is a cult classic, and if you’ve yet to see it for yourself, here’s the gist! An obnoxious TV weatherman finds himself in a Kafkaesque dilemma when he’s plunged into a weird time loop where every day is Groundhog Day. He initially takes advantage of the situation, indulging in hedonistic and even criminal pursuits. But once his morals are given a good pounding, he starts to reexamine his priorities and the way he’s been living his life.