Sometimes you can’t have a real hug
When the world is all doom and gloom, what do you turn to? What thing gives you a warm hug and lets you know it’ll be alright? For some it’s music, cooking or painting. More often, it’s a film, which is quite possibly the most cathartic of mediums. From the comfort of your bed or couch you can escape and ignore the world for 90 minutes. This world we live in has so recently become indistinguishable from the one we once knew. Free from the pandemic, economic turmoil, civil unrest, natural disasters and, of course, exams, film is the perfect medium to distract us from all that.
What makes a comfort film a comfort film though? Does it have to be lighter in content and less challenging? Are they shoehorned into the genres of comedy and children’s films? Some of our contributors reject those stereotypes while others embrace it. That is the beauty of the comfort film. It can be any sort of film as it is less about the content and more about how it makes you feel. It is not about the quality of the comfort film but what feelings they generate inside us. Comfort films are the ones that we choose to watch again and again, the ones we use to soothe our soul when we are stressed and down on our luck. And what soothes us is different for everyone! Raw and Columbus are films that I watch again and again that soothe me. Although they couldn’t be more different… with one being a French cannibal horror and the other being about an unlikely friendship. They serve the same purpose although they arrive in different forms. One is visceral, disturbing and nasty. The other is quiet, subtle and peaceful. However, they both comfort me as they remind me of why I love cinema. To these contributors, comfort means different things as they are all seeking to feel something different and special to them. The films remind them of someone or something. They transport them to a different time and place, or provide escapism when they most need it. Nothing is more personal than understanding why we choose to seek comfort in what we do. So these films, and their champions, deserve to be celebrated as they are letting us peer into their souls for a brief moment. That is one of the greatest privileges.
To most, comfort will be something soft, bubbly and wholesome to make you all gushy and feel warm. Yet, none of these feelings can be found in the insanity that is Crank High Voltage, the high octant Jason Statham romp that I’m proud to call my comfort movie. The absurd story of Chev Chelios’ search for his missing heart sounds crazy enough. Throw in the fact that he has to keep electrically shocking himself to move and you have a comically stupid blast of fun for 90 minutes. You might think I’m crazy for seeing Chinese mafia and copious amounts of gratuitous sex and violence as comfort, but I’d be lying if I said this movie didn’t help me. Uni work has my brain power burning out constantly so an extreme reminder to shut it off is very much welcomed. High Voltage wastes no time telling you this, and the building cluster bomb of stupidity and insanity always brings a dumb smirk to my face. It’s not for everyone, but if you want to save your brain between assignments then there’s really no other way than Crank.
Whenever I am sick or sad, I watch Romancing the Stone and life is suddenly a little sunnier and filled with more adventure. Romancing the Stone follows Joan Wilder, a writer whose weekly highlight is laughing at her own pieces and putting off doing grocery shopping (much like yours truly). Joan is a romance novelist whose life doesn’t nearly match the drama of her romance novels, until she is tangled in a plot to steal a Spanish map in her possession as ransom for her kidnapped sister. Her adventure takes her to the heart of Colombia where she teams up with a mysterious bounty hunter. Romancing the Stone is a criminally underrated gem from the 1980s, a lovable spoof of Indiana Jones-esque action with quotability and innuendo akin to the Austin Powers series. I first heard of this movie as my father once saw this at a university film screening in his varsity days, so to watch this is to see a long lost uni comfort movie treasure!
Dirty Dancing is my all-time favourite comfort film. Happy, sad, excited, nervous, this one has me covered. There’s so much content to enjoy, whether that’s dreamy Patrick Swayze and his arms, or the inevitable fuming to be had over that asshole Robbie. There is a real emotional rollercoaster to be found in this flick. Everyone can have “The Time of Their Life” with this film (sorry, I had to). In the process you have an awkward moment, being caught dancing in your lounge with Mr. Pillow Swayze ‘lifting’ you off the ground. Ahem. Of course, that wasn’t me…
This classic will never die. Much like The Breakfast Club, the misogyny and gender stereotypes are constantly overlooked with the catchy soundtrack and cultist following. Despite that, I promise you that this is a film that will transport you to a 60s summer resort, full of events to fulfil your heart’s delight.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of the cosiest flicks of all time, which is quite the feat for a film set in the cheesy, tourist-y resorts of Hawai’i. At this point in the semester, when I’m feeling extra listless and lethargic, the comedy and charm of Jason Segel makes for the ultimate chill pill. It has such a comforting outpouring of vulnerability. Segel, who wrote the screenplay, physically bares it all as Peter within the first five minutes, before emotionally exposing himself throughout the rest of the film. This creates such a clear distinction between Forgetting Sarah Marshall and other romantic comedies, with an intense and refreshing earnestness spilling over in every moment. There’s no Hollywood gloss clouding the awkward subject matter. The sets feel lived in and real, and even the cartoonish side characters become grounded with Segel’s excellent performance. Despite that grounded tone of the film, the exploration of relationships, heartbreak and sex is also consistently super funny. True laughs are pulled out every couple of minutes, adding a much-needed lightness to some pretty painful moments.
There is also such clever parodying throughout the whole film, whether that’s the tasteless procedural crime show or the confused politics and religion of Russell Brand’s sexually promiscuous superstar. A good comfort needs to supply the audience with a little bit of second hand embarrassment, I think, to truly distract you from whatever is going on to make you feel a bit crap. Forgetting Sarah Marshall has that in buckets, with enough earnestness and self-awareness to counteract any cheap jokes.
The first time I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox was on a flight, nearly ten years after the film’s release in 2009. Growing up during the reign of 3D animation, I’d never felt drawn to this strange stop motion movie about a fox, his family, and three homicidal farmers, based on a book I’d already read by Roald Dahl.
What a foolish swine I was.
Five minutes into the film, on that tiny screen in the back of an airplane seat in front of me, I was smitten.
Directed by Wes Anderson (our quirky king), Fantastic Mr. Fox is whimsical, warm, and every bit as charming as its titular character. It’s a fall-coloured comedy-heist. It’s a stunning animation feat (the fur—look at the fur, damn it!). It’s some of the best performances from a star-studded cast (George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, Willem Dafoe as an actual rat).
It’s also a beautiful exploration of family, purpose, and belonging. Tiny animal puppets have never made me feel so much.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is—for lack of a better word—kind of fantastic. And it’s one of my favourite films of all time.