While Netflix may have a reputation as a seemingly infinite repository of rom-coms, sometimes you’re in the mood for a good cry. When that feeling hits you, sit down with one of these tearjerking dramas, which range from deadly serious to schmaltzy and uplifting-something for everyone.
All the Bright Places (2020)
Based on the international bestselling young adult fiction novel by Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places tells the story of high school students, Violet (Elle Fanning) and Theodore, who likes to go by his last name, Finch (Justice Smith), both of whom are suffering from mental illness caused by trauma in their pasts. It’s a tender love story, growing from two broken people who, together, begin the process of healing. The film is both gentle and heartbreaking, and a rare entry in the excess of teen Netflix originals that truly tries to handle mental health with care.
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Cary Fukunaga’s (True Detective, Maniac) wartime drama is not a movie you put on in the background. Adapted from Uzodinma Iweala’s novel of the same name, this visceral character study tracks a preadolescent after he’s recruited to be a child soldier in an African civil war (its specifics are left purposefully ambiguous). Lorded over by a gruff commander (Idris Elba), the movie is loud, tender, and violent-a coming-of-age story in which the characters may not live to come of age.
Todd Haynes’ story about lesbian love in the 1950s is a gorgeous film from start to finish: from the direction (every frame is as lush as a painting) to the awards-worthy performances (Rooney Mara as the gawky, vulnerable Therese and Cate Blanchett as the alluring, perfectly coiffed Carol-seriously, give this woman’s hair-swoop its own award). No matter which way you swing, Carol is one of the most tender cinematic depictions ever of what it feels like to be in love-how the quality of light changes, how time slows, how every fleeting gesture takes on the deliberateness of sign language-and why two people would be willing to go against everything society expects of them in order to hold on to it.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Fruitvale Station, the directorial debut of Ryan Coogler (who went on to direct Black Panther), pointedly opens with the shocking real-life footage of the killing of Oscar Grant. It’s how the drama inevitably ends, as it tackles the events that led to the young, unarmed man’s death-but its utter devastation weighs heavy over the entire film, as it imagines his final day and illustrates just how many individuals one person’s life touches. Michael B. Jordan is a heart wrenching in what became his movie-star-making role, and his performance and the film as a whole notably give a humanity to just one of the many Black men whose fate unfortunately becomes a headline time and time again.
The Florida Project (2017)
Sean Baker’s The Florida Project nuzzles into the swirling, sunny, strapped-for-cash populace of a mauve motel just within orbit of Walt Disney World. His eyes are Moonee, a 6-year-old who adventures through abandoned condos, along strip mall-encrusted highway, and across verdant fields of overgrown brush like Max in Where the Wild Things Are. But as gorgeous as the everything appears-and The Florida Project looks stunning-the world around here is falling apart, beginning with her mother, an ex-stripper turning to prostitution. The juxtaposition, and down-to-earth style that includes footage shot on an iPhone, reconsiders modern America in the most electrifying way imaginable.
A Ghost Story (2017)
Director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) conceived this dazzling, dreamy meditation on the afterlife during the off-hours on a Disney blockbuster, making the revelations within even more awe-inspiring. After a fatal accident, a musician (Casey Affleck) finds himself as a sheet-draped spirit, wandering the halls of his former home, haunting/longing for his widowed wife (Rooney Mara). With stylistic quirks, enough winks to resist pretension (a scene where Mara devours a pie in one five-minute, uncut take is both tragic and cheeky), and a soundscape culled from the space-time continuum, A Ghost Story connects the dots between romantic love, the places we call home, and time-a ghost’s worst enemy.
Holding the Man (2015)
Based on Timothy Conigrave’s 1995 memoir, Australian film Holding the Man pieces together the 15-year romance of Tim (Ryan Corr) and his longtime partner, John (Craig Scott), as they grow up together, navigate parental damnation, and confront their HIV diagnoses. Through the highs and lows of their relationship-distance, infidelity, arguments, and guilt-there’s always a tenderness beneath the surface of their interactions. Equal parts heartwarming and heart-wrenching, Holding the Man strikes a sensitive chord and proves that some love is worth fighting for.
The Impossible (2012)
Movies about actual disasters run the risk of failing to portray the accuracy of the event, or making something that happened too treacly. The Impossible, though, is not one of those cliches. The film about the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is instead brilliantly directed by Spanish filmmaker J. A. Bayona with powerful performances from Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor to tell the story of a family separated by mass destruction, and their resilience to survive. It’s whitewashing of the incident can’t be ignored, focusing on the experience of tourist instead of locals, but it makes a point to portray the Thai people’s unparalleled efforts to help strangers. It turns a catastrophe into something of an inspiration, but not without balancing just how much desperation and vulnerability it takes to get there.
Into the Wild (2007)
Jon Krakauer’s book about the life and untimely death of Christopher McCandless is all the more poignant when soundtracked by Eddie Vedder. Emile Hirsch’s McCandless waxes poetic about philosophy and alienates everyone who loves him, which can grate at times, but it’s balanced out by the profound beauty of the wilderness. When McCandless’ pride proves to be the ultimate peril, the outcome is no less tragic.
Les Misérables (2012)
Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Les Misérables is a glorious spectacle in bringing stage to screen-one that’s earnestly flooded with emotion. Set against the anti-monarchist June Rebellion of 1832, the epic follows the redemption story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who was imprisoned for stealing bread and, once freed, volunteers to look after the daughter of a factory worker (Anne Hathaway) as he continues to run from the ruthless officer Javert (Russell Crowe) after breaking parole. Even those who roll their eyes at musical, particularly sung-through ones, will be impressed by this explosive period piece and each member of its scene-stealing ensemble. It’s a blockbuster through and through.
Loving brings one of the most pivotal love stories in history to the screen. The biographical drama from Jeff Nichols tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple who challenged state laws banning interracial marriage all the way to the supreme court with the landmark case Loving v. Virginia. For being such a sweeping romance with so many groundbreaking implications, it’s the gentle, muted way it’s told in this historical film nestles into your heart. From Joel Edgerton’s hushed performance as the distant but caring Richard and Ruth Negga’s thoughtful simplicity to Mildred to Nichols’ warm direction, it finds a quiet profoundness that makes it all the more beautiful.
Marriage Story (2019)
Returning to the topic of 2005’s caustic comedy The Squid and the Whale, which tracked the fallout of a divorce from the perspective of children, writer and director Noah Baumbach again finds laughter and pain in the often excruciating personal details of ending a relationship. This time, the bickering couple-a Brooklyn-dwelling actress and a theatre director played with tenderness and anger by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver-takes centre stage. Instead of watching the two fall in and out of love, the story opens with the separation already in motion, allowing Baumbach to focus on the soul-sucking, money-draining legal shitstorm that follows. While Driver and Johansson are both excellent in tricky, emotionally demanding roles, some of the sharpest moments come courtesy of their attorneys, collaborators, and extended families. (Laura Dern and Alan Alda have rightfully earned praise for their parts, but I’d watch Ray Liotta’s gruff divorce expert in his own spin-off.) In showing how divorce ripples outward, Marriage Story complicates its own simple premise as it progresses.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
When Danny (Adam Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), three half-siblings from three different mothers, gather at their family brownstone in New York to tend to their ailing father (Dustin Hoffman), a lifetime of familial politics explode out of every minute of conversation. Their narcissistic sculptor dad didn’t have time for Danny. Matthew was the golden child. Jean was weird… or maybe disturbed by memories no one ever knew. Expertly sketched by writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) this memoir-like portrait of lives half-lived is the kind of bittersweet, dimensional character comedy we’re now used to seeing told in three seasons of prestige television. Baumbach gives us the whole package in two hours.
Chronicling the boyhood years, teenage stretch, and muted adult life of Chiron, a black gay man making it in Miami, this triptych altarpiece is at once hyper-specific and cosmically universal. Director Barry Jenkins roots each moment in the last; Chiron’s desire for a lost lover can’t burn in a diner booth over a bottle of wine without his beachside identity crisis years prior, blurred and violent, or encounters from deeper in his past, when glimpses of his mother’s drug addiction, or the mentoring acts of her crack supplier, felt like secrets delivered in code. Panging colours, sounds, and the delicate movements of its perfect cast like the notes of a symphony, Moonlight is the real deal, a movie that will only grow and complicate as you wrestle with it.
The South’s post-slavery existence is, for Hollywood, mostly uncharted territory. Director Dee Rees rectifies the overlooked stretch of history with this novelistic drama about two Mississippi families working a rain-drenched farm in 1941. The white McAllans settle on a muddy patch of land to realize their dreams. The Jacksons, a family of black sharecroppers working the land, have their own hopes, which their neighbours manage to nurture and curtail. To capture a multitude of perspectives, Mudbound weaves together specific scenes of daily life, vivid and memory-like, with family member reflections, recorded in whispered voice-over. The epic patchwork stretches from the Jackson family dinner table, where the youngest daughter dreams of becoming a stenographer, to the vistas of Mississippi, where incoming storms threaten an essential batch of crops, to the battlefields of World War II Germany, a harrowing scene that will affect both families. Confronting race, class, war, and the possibility of unity, Mudbound spellbinding drama reckons with the past to understand the present.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his beloved novel will take you back to adolescence in a way many coming-of-age films aim to capture but not all can. The film, about an introverted high school freshman named Charlie (Logan Lerman) discovering where he fits in for the first time when he befriends a group of outsider seniors (Ezra Miller, Emma Watson), while he feels forced to cope with his best friend’s suicide and mental illness in private, will take you back to all of the feelings you felt at 16. Lerman’s endearing portrayal, as well as each character’s own delicate experience, the heartwarming dialogue ripped from the text, and that tender soundtrack, are more than enough to have you nostalgic for drives around your hometown and desperate to put on an 8-track and have a good cry. If you let it, it’ll make you “feel infinite.”
Other People (2016)
Other People was a deeply personal film for screenwriter/director Chris Kelly (SNL, The Other Two) to make. Resembling his own experience dealing with the death of a parent, the dramedy examines the relationship between a struggling comedy writer named David (Jesse Plemons) and his mother Joane (Molly Shannon) as he moves back home to be closer to his family while she’s dying of cancer. With David’s down-on-his-luck situation and having to face strained relations with his homophobic father on top of Joane’s terminal fate, the film is meant to tear your heart out-and that’s exactly what Shannon does in her sublime, moving performance. Its funny moments and intimacy of the leads’ relationship, as well as the personal experience its derived from, make this film all the more authentic and a lovely piece about loving the family we’ve got.
Remember Me (2010)
Back when Robert Pattinson was still a hot teenage vampire, he solidified his standing as a swoon-worthy romantic lead with his performance in this dark love story before taking the auteur star-turn he’s embarked on in recent years. Here, he stars opposite Emilie de Ravin (Lost) as a young couple in New York who meet serendipitously and fall for one another, while helping the other cope with their own tragedies. While sounding like a cliched, sappy romance on paper, Remember Me is actually a sombre film about the support it takes to overcome loss. But fair warning: The ending is a doozy-don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white passion project seeks to stun. A technical craftsman of the highest order, the Children of Men and Gravity director has an aesthetic that aims to overwhelm-with the amount of extras, the sense of despair, and the constant whir of exhilaration-and this autobiographical portrait of kind-hearted maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) caring for a family in the early 1970s has been staged on a staggering, mind-boggling scale. Cuarón’s artful pans aren’t just layered for the sake of complexity: He’s often placing different emotions, historical concepts, and class distinctions in conversation with each other. What are these different components in the painstakingly composed shots actually saying to each other? That remains harder to parse. Still, there’s an image of Cleo and the family eating ice cream together after a devastating dinner in the foreground while a wedding takes place in the background that you won’t be able to shake. The movie is filled with compositions like that, tinged with careful ambiguity and unresolvable tensions.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and David O. Russell’s first collaboration-and the film that turned J-Law into a bona fide golden girl-is a romantic comedy/dramedy/dance-flick that bounces across its tonal shifts. A love story between Pat (Cooper), a man struggling with bipolar disease and a history of violent outbursts, and Tiffany (Lawrence), a widow grappling with depression, who come together while rehearsing for an amateur dance competition, Silver Linings balances an emotionally realistic depiction of mental illness with some of the best twirls and dips this side of Step Up. Even if you’re allergic to rom-coms, Lawrence and Cooper’s winning chemistry will win you over, as will this sweet little gem of a film: a feel-good, affecting love story that doesn’t feel contrived or treacly.
A Single Man (2009)
Is life worth living after the sudden death of your partner? That’s the question Colin Firth’s forlorn George faces in this drama, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. You’ll see Ford’s eye in every gorgeous scene, as if the movie is one long, breathtaking couture commercial. Set in 1960s LA, A Single Man will simultaneously break your heart and give you hope as George interacts with colleagues, visits an old friend (Julianne Moore), and has a romantic tryst with a student at the university where he teaches-all as he decides whether this will be the day he ends his life.
6 Years (2015)
Breaking up is hard to do. It’s the subject of Hannah Fidell’s understated 6 Years, which closely examines a relationship falling apart, focusing on a couple played by Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield, who have been together the entirety of their young adult lives. As a character study of the two together and apart, the film is extremely mundane, but their powerful performances make the slice-of-life concept something fierce and worth watching. It starts by breathing the freshness of a first love, but comes to exhale nothing but a volatile violence that will leave you feeling suffocated.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
In his Oscar-winning performance, Eddie Redmayne portrays famed physicist Stephen Hawking-though The Theory of Everything is less of a biopic than it is a beautiful, sweet film about his lifelong relationship with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). Covering his days as a young cosmology student ahead of his diagnosis of ALS at 21, through his struggle with the illness and rise as a theoretical scientist, this film illustrates the trying romance through it all. While it may be written in the cosmos, this James Marsh-directed film that weaves in and out of love will have you experience everything there is to feel.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Adapted from a Nicholas Sparks’ novel-which, as the same guy who wrote The Notebook and Dear John, should tell you enough already-A Walk To Remember is a classic star-crossed lovers tale of a high school bad boy who falls for the local preacher’s daughter , who (brace yourself) is battling leukemia. Yes, it checks about every box of YA sad movie fodder, but you’d be amiss not to let yourself wallow in the hopeless romance that unfolds between Mandy Moore, in her first major film role, and Shane West. Just keep a tissue box at the ready because as soon as you hear the original music sung by Moore or witness the walk in question, you’ll be a weepy mess.
We the Animals (2018)
We the Animals sees the world from a child’s perspective: absolute and mystical, and terrifying at the same time. Adapted from Justin Torres’ novel, the coming-of-age indie follows three young brothers growing up in a working class, mixed race family in Upstate New York-their days spent wildly outdoors, and the complex relationship with their parents inside their humble home. The child actors will pull on your heartstrings like no other, and Jeremiah Zagar’s expressive, dreamy direction captures the scope of the young protagonists’ world to illustrate the inner turmoil that comes with processing identity all the more.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
This low-budget indie flick was the first of Leonardo DiCaprio’s many Oscar snubs, and one that relied heavily on the immense sincerity of the young actor to make the film as potent as it is. Here he plays Arnie, the mentally disabled kid brother to Johnny Depp’s titular Gilbert Grape, and the film follows the two leaning on one another while living in poverty with their morbidly obese mother after their father’s death. It’s a story about the bond and burden of family, and these two deliver performances that make you so deeply believe in their brotherhood and the sentimentality that lives in their world.
As a child, it’s terrifying to watch your parents’ marriage fall apart right before your eyes. First-time director Paul Dano adapted Richard Ford’s novel of the same name along with his wife Zoe Kazan and made the story of two parents’ midlife crises unfolding in front of their teenaged son into a blaze of emotion. Carey Mulligan gives a career best performance as a housewife filling her boredom with an affair, and Jake Gyllenhaal is heartbreaking as a father who feels lost and abandons his family to fight the Montana forest fires. It’s a slow, humble film, but a mighty drama that manages to burn you.
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Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.
What is special about the year of the Rabbit?
As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.
What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?
There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.
New South Wales
Darling Harbour Fireworks When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.
Dragon Boat Races When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.
Lion Dances When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.
Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.
Auntie Philter When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.
Lunar New Year Festival When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.
BriAsia Festival When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.
Chinatown Adelaide Street Party When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.
Crown Perth When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.