Four Feel-good Films for the Isolated

How to curate your own Feel Good Festival at home

By Claire, Suffolk Shorts Programming Team

With cinemas closing their box offices and the first cancellation notices from festivals like BFI Flare and CPIFF landing in our inboxes (and more dropping every minute), it’s all a bit depressing. We’re wishing all the best to our fellow festival organisers out there, and hope as many as possible will be able to reschedule. We all know that festivals aren’t money making ventures. Most of us have a shoestring budget and rely on ticket sales and volunteers. Weathering the storm is a question of retaining the support of audiences and filmmakers.

If you are looking for a way to cheer yourself up, why not take advantage of being stuck at home and create your own festival of feel-good films. And how about supporting the BFI by using the brilliant BFIPlayer? Their back catalogue is second to none and the new releases are curated with care and class. We’d like to recommend four to get you started, which are currently available to stream on various platforms.

Effortlessly charming buddy movie

Our top recommendation is the first feature from writer-directors Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson, Peanut Butter Falcon. OK, it’s not faultless, and the story wanders a bit, but the performances are just pitch perfect and if it doesn’t warm your heart you haven’t got one.

It follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a 22 year old with Down’s syndrome, who has been trying to escape his geriatric care home using ingenious means. He’s finally successful with the help of a fellow resident and some grease (one of the funniest scenes in the film), and he sets off into the world in nothing but his underpants. His dream of attending The Salt Water Redneck wrestling school is the only thing on his mind, till he meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) and the party really starts.

Tyler: What’s rule number one?
Zak: Party.

A Star is Born in Glasgow

Also on the BFIPlayer (but if you don’t mind going over to the dark side, it’s also on Amazon Prime or Hulu) is Wild Rose, the 2018 British musical drama directed by Tom Harper and starring Jessie Buckley. Not all of us at Suffolk Shorts are fans of Country Music, but this showcase for Jesse Buckley proves she really can sing! It’s a typical ‘Star is Born’ underdog making all the wrong decisions, but finally coming good, story. An upliftingly light ending  too.

The Way Way Back

Full disclosure – in my opinion Sam Rockwell can do no wrong (see Jojo Rabbit most recently). In fact the casting of this 2013 coming of age film is absolutely spot on across the board.

In The Way Way Back Toni Collette’s understated Pam is a divorcee taking her son to spend the summer at her new boyfriend’s beach house. She makes you want to slap her one minute and hug her the next. She’s fallible and seems frustratingly naive, until it becomes clear that she only sees what she wants to see. Allison Janney staggers in as the filter free neighbour, Betty, who has managed to raise two delightful kids, despite all the odds.

Betty: They called me a See-You-Next-Tuesday. To my face.

Steve Carrell plays creepy boyfriend to perfection, and Maya Rudolph brings a warm glow to every scene. She’s the perfect mirror, reflecting Owen, the man child with a heart of gold. And it’s pure Rockwell gold from the first moment you lay eyes on him in his ‘just shitty enough’ car.

Top this off with an assured performance from Liam James as the initially grumpy teenager Duncan, who’s in almost every scene, and you’ve got an ensemble cast that really makes the most of this gentle script. The Way Way Back is on Amazon Prime. You’ll laugh, you may even cry a little.

Fantastic Feel Good Family Dramedy

Also available on the BFIPlayer (also on Netlix) is Captain Fantastic which stars Viggo Mortensen in a rare comic lead and George MacKay does those eyes he’s now famous for in the role of eldest son Bodevan. The film debuted at Sundance in 2016 and won Un Certain Regard prize for director Matt Ross at Cannes Film Festival. Writing in the Guardian at the time of it’s release Brian Moylan referred to the film as

heartfelt, comedic, gorgeous and just the right amount of sad.

It felt an appropriate choice for the strange times of lockdown, self isolation and panic buying our world has been plunged into. If you’ve read Educated, by Tara Westover Mortensen is everything you want a survivalist father to be, that Westover’s isn’t. I know which I’d rather be relying upon as everything goes to hell in a handcart.

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