The day after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was a rough one for me. It was next-level exhausting after nearly four years of escalating crazy. I’d spent that Friday night and Saturday morning watching and reading the news coverage, seeing Twitter implode in equal parts rage and schadenfreude, and witnessing the hypocrisy of Republican senators in full flourish as — one by one — they committed to ushering in her replacement before November 3.
By Saturday evening, I was done. I needed to pause and retreat, if only for a two-hour window before bed.
Escaping reality to reset isn’t a new concept, I know. Many of you do it every day. You walk in the woods, lose yourself in a book, meditate, journal, cook, or have sex. I do those things, too (sorry, mom and dad, for that last one). But for me, the fastest and simplest way to get out of my own head is through film. If you find yourself in need of a mini-escape, I offer five movies you may have missed that will — I think — draw you in wholly and happily, if only for two hours.
Based on a true story, Pride is set in 1984 Britain, when the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike for a year. Empathetic to the workers — whom he sees as fellow underdogs being bullied by a conservative government and press — a young activist energizes the London LBGTQ community to raise money in support of a Welsh mining village. It is funny, charming, and family-friendly (my 14-year old daughter loved it), with British acting giants Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, and a too-short but unforgettable dance sequence by Dominic West.
The One I Love (2014)
I have a confession to make. Despite his Emmy-nominated work in The Morning Show, Mark Duplass for me will always be the eerily creepy Aaron from the aptly named Creep and Creep 2. I spotted shades of Aaron in this quirky, slightly foreboding where-is-this-story-going indie film, which has Duplass’ Ethan and his wife Sophie (played by Elizabeth Moss) escaping to a retreat to reconnect. Instead of focusing on each other, they discover better, funnier, and more charming versions of themselves staying at the retreat’s guest house.
The Sting (1973)
“I guess you liked it, huh?” The woman next to me on the plane stated when the movie was over.
It was 1999. I was flying back to Boston following a week of travel for work. The airline was showing The Sting, and I gamely put on my headphones, having never seen the classic. Apparently I laughed out loud, often.
The Sting is a masterful story of revenge. When a fellow grifter is murdered, two con artists (one small-time and one big-time) stage an elaborate payback scheme. It is crisp and funny, tense and timeless, laying the groundwork for future heist films like Ocean’s 11 or Inside Man. And to this day, “try not to live up to all my expectations” remains part of my vernacular.
Run Fatboy Run (2007)
OK, let’s address the elephant(s) in the room. You can’t realistically go from couch-to-marathon in a month. And the whole “leaving the pregnant bride at the altar” thing may be a dealbreaker-for-life for many. But this is about escaping, remember. And it’s Simon Pegg!
Run Fatboy Run’s Dennis is an out-of-shape lingerie store security guard who is coming around to the realization that leaving his fiancé (Thandie Newton) five years ago was a colossal mistake, especially now that she’s taken up with American financier Whit (Hank Azaria). Determined to prove that he’s changed — and capable of finishing something he starts — Dennis decides to run the London Marathon for charity. This movie has it all: wit, charm, warm father/son moments, and a British “fist fight” to rival Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s in Bridget Jones’s Diary. When you’re watching the post-spin class locker room scene, here’s a fun fact: Hank Azaria was actually nude under his towel, and Pegg didn’t know in advance. His reaction was genuine.
Free Solo (2018) or The Biggest Little Farm (2018)
We humans can do some pretty amazing things. If you’re in the mood to — as Frank Turner sings — “believe in all the wondrous things mere mortals can achieve,” you can’t go wrong with either of these documentaries. In the Oscar-winning former, we witness free solo rock climber Alex Honnold’s journey to becoming the first person to climb the 3,000 foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without using safety ropes. In the latter, Molly and John Chester (and their rescue dog, Todd), seek to bring 200 acres of farm back to vibrant life by embracing nature, not fighting against it. It is heartfelt, moving, and cinematically breathtaking.
Watching one (or all) of these movies serves as only a temporary band aid to the realities we face outside our living rooms, I know. But we need to pause, breathe, and regroup in order to effectively fight on. I, for one, am getting my energy and optimism back. I’ll be marching on October 17 with my kids, my husband, and my parents. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Have a favorite movie escape of your own? Leave it in the comments!