7. Quartet (2012)
The loveliness and the positive approach to life of this Dustin Hoffman-directed film is palpable from the beginning. The protagonists are a group of cheerful elders who live together in a retirement home for musicians.
There is no resignation in their lives, though – they sing and practice, play games, take long walks through the house’s beautiful garden, joke and eat together. Among them, Cissy, Reggie, and Wilf are old friends. Together with Reggie’s former wife and greatest love Jean (a delightful Maggie Smith), they used to form a highly admired quartet back in the day.
The calm of their practice routine for the annual Verdi birthday anniversary concert is disrupted by Jean’s arrival at the house. She used to be much admired for her talent, but although in ways she still behaves like a diva, she’s afraid to join the group and perform at the gala.
This film is full of optimism and positivity, and its approach to old age is highly refreshing. It manages to show how one can maintain one’s passions, high spirits and love for life independently of the passage of time.
6. Milk (2008)
Milk is the true story of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), a 40-year-old gay man who had not accomplished much in his life.
Starting with his 40th year of existence, he changes his life completely: he moves to San Francisco, opens a shop that would become the gay community meeting point and becomes a devout activist for gay rights. Not only that, but after several trials he manages to become the first openly gay man in America to be elected as an official.
5. (500) Days of Summer (2009)
(500) Days of Summer is a bright romance about an idealistic boy who believes in the power of true love and a down-to-earth girl who doesn’t.
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is an architecture graduate, works at a greeting cards company. There, he meets the fascinating Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who just started working as an assistant. Summer is pretty and mysterious, and has always attracted the attention of men. Tom can’t believe it when she shows interest in him, as he’s already smitten by her.
From the beginning we are shown that the relationship was not going to last, and moving back and forth through time, we witness the disillusion and hardship of Tom, who is very much in love and believes that romance can last a lifetime.
Although the two don’t end up together, the film leaves a lasting impression of willpower and courage to fight with one’s fears, exceed one’s limits and begin again.
4. Into the Wild (2007)
Sean Penn is not only a versatile actor, but quite a crafted director and writer. His film Into the Wild explores the search for identity and meaning, the detachment from earthly possessions and the discovery of the true self.
After graduating from university, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decides to donate his money to charity and leaves his home and family to set off on a journey toward the wilderness. During his travel he meets and befriends a number of people who influence his life, while he leaves a mark on theirs in return.
Replete with stunning images and a wonderful soundtrack from Eddie Vedder, Into the Wild is at the same time a sorrowful and liberating story.
3. 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006)
12:08 East of Bucharest (original title: A fost sau n-a fost, which translates to Was it or Wasn’t it?) is a Cannes-awarded Romanian New Wave film by director Corneliu Porumboiu.
Sixteen years after the ’89 revolution against the Ceaușescu regime, in a quiet town east of the capital, Jderescu (Teodor Corban), the owner of a local TV station, invites an old retired man who sometimes plays Santa Claus (Mircea Andreescu) and an alcoholic history professor (Ion Sapdaru) to his live show to discuss a painstaking issue: Was there or wasn’t there a revolution in their town?
Full of situational and satirical humor, the film’s best moment and the most inspirational one is right at the end, when the mother of one of the revolution victims phones the show and speaks live.
2. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a salesman who has invested his family savings in a bone-density scanner device that is no more accurate than the current technology, but twice as expensive. As he struggles to sell the apparatuses and make ends meet for his family, he exhausts all their finances and loses his wife, who is tired of his constant attempts and failures and leaves him.
Left homeless with his son, he gets the chance to begin an unpaid stockbroker internship for six months. Meanwhile, with no money and no home, he has to struggle to make it through the day.
Although tinted with a shade of corporation-praise propaganda, The Pursuit of Happyness is a powerful film about optimism, struggle and poise against all odds.
1. Life is Beautiful (1997)
This heartfelt drama/comedy/romance directed by and starring Roberto Benigni is both heartbreaking and a lesson of strength.
In 1939, a happy-go-lucky Italian Jew named Guido (Roberto Benigni) falls in love and marries the beautiful teacher Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), who soon gives birth to their son. A few years later, during World War II, the German army barges in to their town and takes Guido and his little son to a Jewish concentration camp.
Life there is as tough as can be imagined, but Guido would not let that destroy his son’s spirit. He pretends that everything that’s happening in the camp is just a game everybody is playing, and that their goal is to gain 1000 points and to win the grand prize: a tank.
Author Bio: Ioana Sileanu is a cinephile from Romania. A previous editor of the Comedy Cluj International Film Festival’s publication, she has written various articles such as film reviews, festival events coverage, interviews and translations.