There are movies that are great, and there are movies that are great for the soul. This list will becomprised of films belonging to the latter category. As to which is the more valuable of the two, that depends, I think, largely upon one’s frame of mind at the time of the watching. Great movies express truth, and the expression of truth is ultimately cathartic, helping to bring understanding, and therefore ownership, and therefore acceptance. But, truth oftentimes goes down a lot like wormwood. Sometimes, it’s nice just to have something that tastes good, empty calories or not. The movies on this list will be ones I picked because to me at least, whatever else they may have going for them, they just make me feel good. They are chicken soup for the soul movies, movies I would want to take with me if I were being abandoned to live in seclusion on a desert island, movies that present things the way they should be and not necessarily the way things are.
“Mother doesn’t like me playing Beethoven. She says I’m always peevish afterwards.”–Lucy Honeychurch
#1. A Room with A View (1985). A Room with a View, based on the novella of the same name by E.M. Forster, tells the story of young lovers Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson. Everything around the two, beginning with the scene from which the title is taken, is complicated–absurdly so–by the Edwardian mores of the day. On a trip to Italy, Lucy is accompanied by a chaperon, Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith), who complains at length over the lack of a room with a view only to turn down a kindhearted offer by a male guest and his young son to switch rooms for fear that accepting implies some sort of “unseemly” return obligation. Lucy, in fact, is so corseted by these ridiculous rules and expectations that her capacity for life and passion is intimated only in the way she plays Beethoven. “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays,” says Mr. Beebe, played marvelously by Simon Callow, “it will be very exciting, both for us and for her.” Thankfully, she will, with a little help from George.
George Emerson and his father, who accompanies him on the trip to Italy where he meets Lucy, have no such hang-ups. And while this makes them vulgar in the eyes of those who surround Lucy, he is the only hope Lucy has of finding the courage and freedom to live and love freely and authentically, escaping a life of restriction and marriage to a man whom she does not love. In short, George is, well, an Emersonian. He is all id to Lucy’s superego, and when Lucy comes across him unexpectedly in a lonely and beautiful field of flowers, George impulsively sweeps her into his arms and kisses her passionately. The act is, we know, if Lucy perhaps quite yet does not, a poetic expression of a Whitmanesque barbaric yawp rather than the questionable act of a young man with boundary issues.
I have seen A Room with a View multiple times, and I’m always up for seeing it again.