7. The Way Way Back (2013)
This 2013 coming-of-age comedy film depicts the story of a shy 14-year old named Duncan, who is unwillingly spending his summer vacation on a beach with his mother and her despotic boyfriend.
As they enjoy their vacation, the mother’s boyfriend expects Duncan to improve on himself as a man – to look good, to socialize more, to meet girls and to upgrade from being a ‘3’ – but Duncan is not too enthusiastic and doesn’t want to do anything about it.
“The Way Way Back”, directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, tells a story of a boy in his “awkward stage”. With the people around him, it shows how the teenager developed and learned not just about his environment and the world around him, but about himself as well.
The film shows the stages and events a teenager goes through as they grow up and reach adulthood, which includes meeting new people, making new friends, personal problems, family problems, and falling in love.
It also shows there is always a way and time for people to come out of their own selves and bloom. It just takes perfect timing and the right people to support you and share that moment with you.
8. Donnie Darko (2001)
“Donnie Darko” is a psychological drama written and directed by Richard Kelly. It tells the story of Donnie, portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, a teenager who is always on a different page and does not get along well with his family, as well as many people at his school.
When an airplane engine falls into his bedroom, he was not there and thus, he survived. Following the event, more peculiar things happen to him. He starts getting bothered by his doomsday-related visions and meets a friend named Frank, who cannot be seen by anyone but him; he starts to think the mysterious tragedy was caused by a supernatural event, and there’s no one he can talk to about it other than his understanding psychiatrist.
Donnie’s character is portrayed as a misunderstood young man. He is courageous, gentle, and open-minded, but people seem to not always get what his thoughts are about. He may be troubled by the feeling of loneliness, and chooses to live in an isolated existence due to this situation.
The character’s adventure, as he tries to find the meaning of life and the end of the world by himself (and maybe his friend, Frank), would show how he works and thinks best alone without having to explain his actions to people.
It can be seen that he trusts himself more than he trusts others, and this gives him the freedom to have a liberal mind and a tough way of thinking. “Donnie Darko” is a movie that is filled with a lot of emotions coming from a single character; loneliness, hope, love, fear, and violence inhabit the body of a teen as he lives a meaningful yet mysterious life.
9. Taxi Driver (1976)
This film by Martin Scorsese is about a mentally unstable taxi driver from New York who is also a war veteran from Taiwan. Travis, the main character played by Robert De Niro, lives on his own and suffers from insomnia, and drives a taxi in New York for a living every night.
Because of his disgust for the decadence and corruption present and felt in society, he despises the people responsible for these issues. As Travis observes and witnesses the immorality alone from afar, he is finally triggered to formulate a plan to step up and take action to stop it.
Travis is a guy that loathes society so much that he doesn’t want to be a part of it. He isolates himself from the society full of scum, which he does not trust. He wanders alone in New York every night seeing prostitutes, thieves, and procurers and feels distressed, and he assigns himself as a hero so he would not be bothered anymore. His thoughts always concern the betterment of society and making changes, but in a dark and violent way.
Travis’ character could be misunderstood as psychopathic, but he’s also a depressed, lonely, and problematic man who is mentally unstable. However, it should be understood that someone who plays a small and insignificant role in society could also be a man who cares and calls for change.
10. Lars and the Real Girl (2004)
“Lars and the Real Girl” is a comedy-drama film directed by Craig Gillespie. The movie is about Lars, played by Ryan Gosling, a shy and reticent man who stumbles upon a sex doll on the Internet. He ordered it, and soon he finds himself in a romantic relationship with it, naming it Bianca.
Lars’ brother and sister-in-law were concerned about his situation, but decided to go along together with the whole town to support the dysfunctional young man.
The film tells the story of a man who is socially awkward, yet is also sweet and delicate. Being “in a shell”, Lars does not seem to connect and relate himself to other people, thus making himself build his own world with his girlfriend, whom he found in a doll.
“Lars and the Real Girl” was written as a comedy, but the subject and situation the characters are in is sad and moving. Lars’ separation from reality, and the community trying to help him and understand his actions, is remarkably inspirational.
The story might be uncomfortable and weird to watch, but looking at it in a larger context, ”Lars and the Real Girl” is a story of love, kindness, and understanding that gives hope for a peaceful humanity.
11. American Beauty (1999)
This American drama was directed by Sam Mendes and tells the complicated and dark story of a husband and father who has a mid-life crisis, losing his enthusiasm for his marriage and daughter, after becoming infatuated with a teenage girl.
Lester, the main character, is played by Kevin Spacey; his relationships with both his wife and daughter are going downhill, yet his relationship with his daughter’s friend deepens. On the other hand, Jane, Lester’s daughter, is finding it hard to deal with her problematic parents and meets a shy and weird boy who lives next door.
“American Beauty” shows introversion through the characters on so many levels. Each character has a motivation as to why a lot of thoughts and feelings are kept unsaid, leaving them depressed and downtrodden.
The thought-provoking movie caters to the lives of people anguished by their personal conflicts, and would make the viewers not just root for a character, but reflect and see how an experience or a problem can change someone’s life and affects others lives, in one way or another.
Some characters faced it, some overcame it, and some just lost it and gave up. Watching the film may be very depressing, but it is also an essential tool to open people’s minds, to stop stereotyping, and to learn about the value of life.
12. Adam (2009)
“Adam” is a romantic drama, written and directed by Max Mayer, that tells the compelling love story of Adam and Beth. Adam, a young man who just started living alone after the death of his father, whom he used to live with dependently and Beth, a school teacher and writer who just moved into an apartment just above Adam’s, have both fallen in love in the most difficult time of their lives. The two became each other’s helping hand for survival and rediscover the beauty and meaning of life as they unravel a brand new life together.
Adam has an Asperger syndrome, a developmental disorder that gives him difficulties in interacting with other people, making him awkward towards others, and Beth became his aid in discovering the world as a normal person, and fixing his heartbreak, anxiety, and fear as he feels alienated towards society.
The movie shows the difference between Adam and Beth’s personalities and perspectives toward the world, and how it strengthened and challenged their relationship. It displays an insightful story about unconditional love in spite of communication barriers, and a heartwarming story of overcoming fears and problems for the sake of happiness and love.
13. Stoker (2013)
This British-American psychological thriller film was directed by South Korean director Park Chan-wook. It is about India Stoker, an innocent yet curious girl with an acute sensitivity, and her disturbing life after her beloved father, who was the only person she considers a friend, died in a mysterious car accident. Now friendless, India is left at home with her emotionally unstable mother, and the arrival of her uncle who she’s never met convoluted the situation.
Watching “Stoker” would give you a feeling of loneliness and curiosity in an unpleasant way. India is characterized as a loner. Her father was her only friend with whom she felt connected, and now feels empty and abandoned with a demented mother, menacing uncle, and bullying schoolmates.
The movie welcomes us, the viewers, to India’s tiny world as we penetrate her life more and more with each scene, and every scene is a revelation that gives clues to help and/or complicate the story. Though dry and intricate at times, the intensity of the events leaves the audience hanging on the edge of their seats and be in the same intriguing world the characters are in.