For our January’s recommendation list, we’ve picked a theme to set your heart racing: coming-of-age films about long journeys, lost dreams, and young love; they may as well be out-of-body experiences. A Wes Anderson classic dipped in innocence and colour or a Singaporean documentary about a teenager’s stolen film and broken dreams—it’s all in here.
Wes Anderson evokes magic in Moonrise Kingdom in a manner that is typical of his filmmaking ethos. We see a sepia-washed New England in the 1960s where two 12-year-old lovers, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), run away to the fictional Penzance island (which the protagonists rename ‘Moonrise Kingdom’). Panic-struck adults and the town’s residents set off on a search, and what follows is an adventure with childhood innocence at its heart. A delightful combination of romance, artistic storytelling and tasteful cinematography, the film is sure to leave you smiling long after the end credits roll.
In the summer of 1992, when there was a delicious slowness to life in Singapore, when its teenagers were still angsty about the chewing ban, 18-year-old Sandi Tan did something radical: she wrote a slasher road movie and played its female assassin. Friends Jasmine and Sophie helped with the production, and the precocious Godard-loving girls turned to their American film teacher, Georges Cardona, to direct what they called Shirkers. And then Cardona stole all 70 canisters of film and disappeared.
Shirkers, also the name of the 2018 Netflix documentary, sees Tan, Jasmine and Sophie go backwards to see how the film—or the absence of it—shaped their teenage and adult lives. The documentary is as much a bildungsroman tale of ’90s Singapore, pastel-hued flashes of which we see in the scenes of the old Shirkers (the footage mysteriously resurfaces two decades later, without sound): ballerinas in a topiary garden, a nurse dancing with a wolfhound, tracks of the abandoned Singapore-Malaya Railway—a place so different than the Singapore we know that it looks like a daydream.
Perhaps it matters when in your life you watch The Motorcycle Diaries. In impressionable hearts, this lyrical epic might prompt a fevered urge to grab a helmet and embark on a continent-spanning, rough-and-tumble road trip. As an adult, you are unlikely to shake off complicated feelings about what became of the protagonists—a 23-year-old Che Guevara (Gael García Bernal) and his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna). Walter Salles’s film is a snapshot of the Marxist giant prior to his political transformation. As a medical student wandering across Latin America, Ernesto or Che goes from a reckless romantic to an impassioned believer. Travel shatters Che, for better or worse, and his journey, rendered so poetically by Salles and Gustavo Santaolalla’s soaring score, remains an affecting one for the ages.
“Somewhere In Northern Italy”: reads the hazy opening credit of Luca Guadagnino’s young romance. Fitting, for so much of this movie delights in the blurring of time, place and purpose. The six weeks that brew the story of lover-pals Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) could’ve been ten. The lush family home of Elio, cocky and vulnerable in the throes of late teenage, could have been any summer estate. And yet, for their socially unsanctioned ardour to announce itself between peaches, fountains, apricots and kisses, there must exist a landscape as melancholic and memorable as love itself. So we are packed off to the Italian countryside, awash in fruit season. It is a season of plenty—of bike rides, picnics, cold swims and hot-knife touches. Tail the pair as they fritter away time with an irreverence afforded only to the unbroken… what follows is only vaguely relevant. Two hours 12 minutes of second-hand courage. Can you complain?
–Sohini Das Gupta
Before there was Elio and Oliver’s whirlwind of a summer romance in Call Me By Your Name, there was Adèle and Emma’s heart-wrenching, tender tale of young love in Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Set in northern France, the film follows high schooler Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) as she begins to navigate sexuality, adulthood and social acceptance. Her life takes a complete turn when she crosses paths with the blue-haired, 20-something art student, Emma (Léa Seydoux), first in the streets of Lille and later at a gay bar. The two embark on a thunderbolt relationship, stringing along the hearts of viewers. The film is more than just about first love and loss; it is raw and catastrophic at its core, just like the protagonists’ bond. Perhaps as close as it gets to the real thing.