That cinema can be used to escape reality is no new concept. But the wonderful thing about slice-of-life cinema is that it has the capacity to show us the very reality we’re trying to escape, only to leave us transformed, with a new outlook on life. We meet characters who, much like us, struggle with everything from Monday blues to existential dread. But they find ways out: moments of silly joy, friends who can be sad with them and comfort in the smell of their favourite food. For those lonely and loathsome days, here are our favourite 12 movies and series to watch on Netflix – these might leave you in a much better mood than what you started out with.
Write Park Hae-young, known best for writing the heartwrenching K-drama My Mister, creates an enduring tale of dignity, love and forgiveness through the Netflix web series My Liberation Notes. The series revolves around three siblings living on the outskirts of Seoul. Each day brings its own dreary travel, slights at work and loneliness. But over time, through fleeting but meaningful connections, the three learn to find contentment in the life given to them.
Based on the book The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, this 2016 film revolves around Ben (Paul Rudd), who decides to become a caregiver for a sardonic, bitter disabled teen, Trevor (Craig Roberts). The two embark on a road trip to see the world's deepest pit – Trevor thinks it would be funny to travel a whole lot to stare at a hole in the ground – and on the way, they meet a like-minded hitchhiker, Dot (Selena Gomez). Like most road-trip films, Fundamentals of Caring focuses on the journey inward for each character, unravelling secrets, epiphanies and universal wisdom.
Yeo-rum (Seol Hyun) is slowly drowning at work. Shy, docile and diligent, she is the perfect scapegoat for office bullying. Her ideas are stolen, she’s asked to do menial work below her pay grade and even verbally abused. A series of tragedies lead her to a radical decision: She sleeps in on a workday. The repose of this day propels her to quit, move to a small village and do nothing. Here, in the middle of reading books and eating hearty meals, Yeo-rum makes abiding friendships. Co-written and co-directed by Lee Yoon-jung and Hong Moon-pyo, the series will make you want to take your own little break of self-discovery.
The Half of It might look like a love triangle at first glance but scratch the surface and you get a story about identity and friendship. Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is a rare Asian in the fictional American suburb of Squahamish and she’s harassed incessantly for it. When Paul (Daniel Diemer) approaches her to write a love letter to his crush, Aster (Alexxis Lemire), Ellie isn’t expecting to find a new friend in Paul – or her first love in Aster. Amidst these entangled love interests, The Half of It manages to weave in stunning conversations about art, literature and the existence of God.
Director Richard Linklater reimagines America’s first moon landing in 1969 through the eyes of a young boy growing up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Taking inspiration from his own life, Linklater crafts a nostalgic ode to his childhood, filled with hissing cola bottles, weekend picnics and antenna television. Through Stanley (Milo Coy), hired by NASA to ride the Apollo 11 to the moon, the director blends reality, fiction, animation and a healthy dose of comfort for the audience – especially if you belong to the Gen X or Baby Boomers generation.
A married couple tries an open relationship, while another tries to spice things up by inviting another woman into their bedroom. Despite the fact that sex shows up quite often in Easy, Joe Swanberg’s anthology series explores it as an extension of larger conversations around ageing, identity, commitment and technology. The show might be based in Chicago but its nuggets of insight reveal themselves to be universal. A bonus point is its excellent ensemble cast, including Elizabeth Reaser, Jake Johnson, Orlando Bloom and Dave Franco.
From the Oscar-winning Italian director, Paolo Sorrentino comes the coming-of-age story of Fabietto Schisa, a young man living in Naples in the turbulent 1980s. There is joy in his life – his loving parents, his love for philosophy, the terrific rise of footballer Diego Maradona (whose winning goal in the 1986 World Cup is termed ‘The Hand of God’) – but soon, there is also unspeakable tragedy, charting the course for Fabietto’s future. Sorrentino returns to his hometown to deliver one of his most personal and heartbreaking films yet.
Noah Baumbach is arguably one of the best contemporary writer-directors to capture realism on-screen. With The Meyerowitz Stories, he lays bare the intricate nuances of familial bonds – sibling rivalry, the desperate seeking of parental validation and the love that springs from memory and comfort. The film hosts a range of stellar performances from Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Emma Thompson and especially from Adam Sandler – who shows us, once again, why he has the chops to be a great serious actor.
When Fatka, the new boy hired to wash Chandan Nagar society’s cars, brings his dog Bhidu with him, it does not go down well with the society’s band of 12-year-old boys. Dogs who dirty the cricket pitch are a natural enemy of the group and the boys try their best to get Fatka and Bhidu removed from their society. But this squabble eventually leads to an endearing friendship between them – a bond so strong that it makes the national news. An instant mood-booster, Chillar Party makes for a great family watch.
Eternally Confused and Eager for Love offers a bite-sized look at navigating love and sex in the modern age. Ray (Vihaan Samat) is awkward, lonesome and a bit of a loser. For starters, he takes most of his advice from ‘Wiz’ – a miniature figurine. But this constant dialogue with an inanimate object is a brilliant embodiment of an ‘inner voice’, snugly placing the audience into Ray’s mind. His sexual fantasies, his irrationality and his most neurotic thoughts are laid bare, eventually forming the portrait of everyday anxieties that most of us struggle with. Ray’s wins in life might look small to those around him but he knows – and by extension, so do we – that they’re monumental.
Directed by Rene Liu, Us and Them traces the journey of a Chinese couple’s relationship: their chance meeting on a train; their gradual friendship, lust and love; their eventual conflict and forked paths. Through the ups and downs of their union emerges a portrayal of growth itself, in all its revelatory and painful glory. Zhou Dongyu and Boran Jing give heartbreaking performances as the lead actors and Liu frames melancholy and loneliness wonderfully, reminiscent of the legendary director Wong Kar-wai.
Malini Chib, a disability rights activist, in conversation with her cousin and director Shonali Bose, expressed the desire to have a normal sex life as an individual with cerebral palsy. Inspired, Bose created Margarita With a Straw, which follows Laila, a teenager with cerebral palsy, on the journey of her own unique experiences of love, sex and freedom. Kalki Koechlin delivers one of her best performances as the indomitable and vivacious protagonist.