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10 incredible films to put a smile on your face

There’s a renewed focus on the positive effects of maintaining one’s mental health this month as we appreciate Mental Health Awareness Month. With the new season of spring and summer almost upon us, the warmer weather in the air and the need to boost our endorphins every so often, there is no better time to indulge in some films that inspire happiness and hopefulness.

So-called ‘happy’ films are often regarded with less seriousness, yet this list aims to prove that such films can simultaneously deal with complex issues whilst also leaving the viewer inspired and refreshed. On a groggy morning, with grey clouds ahead, now is the time to bring some sunshine and dive into the glorious abundance of positive films.

With the current climate that we are living in, a film that leaves you with a feeling of optimism rather than despair can be desperately needed. Paired with a peppy soundtrack or dreamy romantic score, these kinds of films can invoke a sense of cheeriness or idealism that is so often absent from major pictures.

There are certain genres that work as the perfect spring films: period dramas, the quirky coming-of-ages, and comedies with happy-go-lucky characters whose charm rubs off on the audience.

Check out our picks of films below that have an inexplicable spring-time feel, whilst also potentially putting a spring in your step…

10 incredible films to brighten your day:

Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005)

There seems to be no better time to watch a period drama than the beginning of spring, with its luscious landscapes and dreamy classical scores that leave you wanting to walk the grounds of an extravagant stately home in the late evening sun.

Joe Wright’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice is a gorgeous journey through the rural English countryside, stopping off at the Peak District to produce breath-taking scenes that would inspire even the most stubborn city dweller to take a visit.

The film follows Elizabeth Bennett, played by the period drama’s most coveted actress, Kiera Knightley, as she and her sisters try to find themselves, eligible suitors. Pride and Prejudice explore the trials and tribulations that the sisters endure on their quests for love, most central is Elizabeth’s desire for the snobbish yet handsome Mr. Darcy, played by Matthew Mcfadyen. Hopelessly romantic and entirely compelling, Pride and Prejudice remains one of the greatest period pieces of the past twenty years.

9. But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999)

Jamie Babbit’s satirical depiction of conversion therapy is one of the 1990s most visually impressive and insightful films. But I’m a Cheerleader follows Megan (Natasha Lyonne), a happy and overtly feminine high school cheerleader. However, one day her family and friends surprise her with an intervention, led by RuPaul’s hilarious ‘ex-gay’ character that takes her away to conversion therapy, a surreal and candy-coloured place where the students are forced to comply in a program that will ‘turn them straight.’

The film is a defining landmark in LGBT cinema and is an essential watch, not just for the importance and representation of its themes, but also its sheer hilarity. But I’m a Cheerleader asks the viewer vital questions about the construction of gender roles through its mise-en-scene, which is saturated with extremely artificial pinks and blues at every turn, highlighting the unnaturalness of gender stereotypes.

8. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)

Following the relationship of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), Before Sunset is the second instalment in Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, with each film released nine years apart. Before Sunset makes for the perfect springtime watch; Lee Daniel’s cinematography perfectly encapsulates the picturesque streets of Paris as the sun slowly sets. The pair have captivating and effortless chemistry that allows them to engage in conversation for the film’s entire 80-minute run-time.

Before Sunset is beautiful in every sense of the word, but it culminates in an unforgettably stunning scene in Celine’s apartment. After listening to Nina Simone together, Jesse convinces Celine to play one of her songs to him. The song she sings is about the night they met which is documented in Before Sunrise, and the camera’s gaze upon his face as he listens to Celine’s voice is one of realisation and love.

7. Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006)

The 2006 tragicomedy Little Miss Sunshine will undoubtedly put a smile on your face. The film focuses on a dysfunctional family, including the teenage Dwayne (Paul Dano) who has taken a vow of silence, uncle Frank (Steve Carell) taken in by the family after a recent suicide attempt, and the ambitious young Olive who aspires to be a beauty queen, coached by her heroin-snorting grandfather. The family set off on a trip from Albuquerque to California so that Olive can compete in the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ competition, which leads to a series of comical and heart-breaking events.

The film comments on the issues such as body-shaming, overachievement, homophobia, and the family as an institution, culminating in a glorious dance scene at the beauty pageant that acts as a middle finger to society’s rigid expectations of conformity. Little Miss Sunshine ended up receiving multiple BAFTAs and Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay from both organisations.

6. Lola (Jacques Demy, 1961)

French master Jacques Demy’s debut feature film Lola blends classic French New Wave sensibilities with a more classic style, shot in glorious black and white and intended as a homage to German director Max Ophüls. Lola follows a series of characters that always seem to narrowly miss each other, such as Anouk Aimee’s Lola, a cabaret dancer (inspired by Marlene Dietrich’s character in The Blue Angel), Roland, a man smitten with Lola, who he knew years prior, and Cecile, a 13-year-old that crosses paths with Roland at a bookstore while shopping with her mother.

Demy described the film “a musical without music,” even though we are graced with an enjoyable performance from Lola, who asserts “It’s me..! Lola!” The film is widely considered a forgotten gem of the New Wave period, which was largely overshadowed by directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. Demy’s Lola is a profound look at the complexities of desire, evoking feelings of nostalgia, endearment, and sentimentality.

5. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jenuet, 2001)

Not only is Amelie a visually stunning film, it is also warm, tender, and uplifting – a perfect spring watch. Amelie, an introverted and reserved young waitress, takes it upon herself to become a silent do-gooder after reuniting a stranger with his childhood time capsule that she finds in her apartment.

The film sees her take hilarious revenge on the greengrocer that mistreats his disabled assistant, matchmake the obsessive customer Joseph with hypochondriac Georgette, and manage to convince a widow that her husband sent her a final love letter before his accidental death.

The unique cast of characters are a joy to watch, as is Amelie’s journey from an isolated individual to one that fulfils her desires by the end of the film. The glorious scenes of Paris are illuminated by greens and reds, a distinctive and nostalgic depiction of the city that adds to the sentimentality of the film’s themes.

4. A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, 1964)

The Beatles star as themselves in the fun musical comedy A Hard Day’s Night that takes place during the height of 1960s Beatlemania. The film depicts events that take place as the band prepares to perform on television. Despite some cheesy gags, largely apparent in the character of Paul’s grandfather, played by actor and comedian Wilfrid Brambell, the film is ninety minutes of easy enjoyment, complete with sing-a-longs and laughs that the whole family can enjoy.

Not only was the film a critical success, but it was also a box office hit, premiering at London’s Pavilion Theatre and earning over $20,000 in its first week, leading to over 1,600 prints of the film circulating at once. The film features tracks such as ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ ‘And I Love Her’ and ‘Tell Me Why,’ which feature on the band’s album of the same name.

3. Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1973)

Peter Bogdanovich’s early 1970s road drama, set in the midst of the Great Depression, follows the relationship between con man Moses and nine year old Addie, who may or may not be his daughter. After meeting at Addie’s mother’s funeral in Kansas, Moses is instructed to deliver Addie to her aunt’s house in Missouri.

The film depicts the pair as they join forces to con the public, the audacious and boyish Addie proving herself to be a master scammer, resulting in the duo becoming a formidable team. Paper Moon is incredibly endearing and sweet, whilst also retaining plenty of humour and depth. Con man Moses is played by Ryan O’Neal, whose real-life daughter Tatum plays Addie.

The ten-year-old became the youngest person to ever win an Oscar, earning herself the award for Best Supporting Actress.

2. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)

Wes Anderson’s impressive filmography reached heights in 2012 with the release of coming of age comedy, Moonrise Kingdom. The film follows an orphaned boy named Sam that falls in love with Suzy, subsequently leading to the pair running away to an isolated beach together, meanwhile, their respective families and friends attempt to locate the pair.

In typical Anderson style, the film contains a beautiful pastel colour palette and striking cinematography that accompanies quirky characters and humour. Anderson was inspired by his own childhood fantasies of young love, taking cinematic inspiration from the likes of Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Waris Hussein’s film Melody.

The film has a distinctively French New Wave feel, and features tracks such as ‘Le temps de l’amour’ by French icon Francoise Hardy.

1. Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)

The quirky coming-of-age comedy Juno, starring Elliot Page and Michael Cera as the bearers of an unplanned teenage pregnancy is both charming, heart-warming and tender, depicting the events that thrust protagonist Juno into adulthood.

Not only does the cinematography often evoke a distinctive spring feel, such as the scene that shows Juno and Paulie playing the guitar in the sun on the front step, but the soundtrack too – which features tracks from The Moldy Peaches’ Kimya Dawson.

Despite Juno’s ability to make you both laugh and cry, there is no doubt that by the end of the film you’ll feel a sense of bittersweet happiness, as the pair are shown happy and ready for whatever life has to offer next. The film ends on such a touching note that the resilience of the characters will unquestionably put a spring in your step.