Don’t let Coronavirus stop you from armchair travelling with these films to whisk you away

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By Daisy Game, Entertainment Subeditor and Leah Martindale, Film & TV Editor

With the Virus That Shall Not Be Named keeping us locked up at home, it can be hard to fight the bug that makes us want to get out and travel - at least to the end of the road and back. So let us take you around the world in 80 - okay, let’s be realistic here, it’s only going to be 6! So sue us! - films and documentaries…

Before Sunrise (1995) dir. Richard Linklater

Ethan Hawke and Julie Denpy play the lovelorn Jesse and Celine in Linklater's Viennese romance | IMDb / Castle Rock Entertainment

‘I met a guy on a train, and I got off with him in Vienna...’ Synopsis: boy meets girl, girl meets boy. Boy and girl realise they have a *connection* - fireworks, champagne, jazz hands - boy asks girl if she might consider hopping off the train with him at Vienna, so as to spend an evening pottering the cobble, before heading their separate ways at dawn. ‘Are you crazy?!’ - girl says yes, and off they go.

There’s not much more to it - Jesse and Celine roam the streets of a hot and hazy Vienna, ‘greasy haired’ and flushed with the promise of a city at dusk. They flirt, they talk about love; they tease, they consider ‘pain and happiness’; they bob between poets and actors, bars, graveyards and churches - and it’s just the loveliest.

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Prepare to have any expectations of your next romantic sojourn raised to entirely unrealistic heights. Capturing that breathless wonder of immediate intimacy; that glorious lack of reservation we have in conversation with The One that we somehow know will come to matter more the rest -  Before Sunrise is the romance to end all romances.  

Midnight in Paris (2011) dir. Woody Allen

Wilson and McAdams' relationship is only amplified by the natural beauty of its location, the City of Love | IMDb / Sony Pictures Classics

‘This is unbelievable - there’s no city like this in the world!’: another late-night-wander of a movie, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris pays homage to the magic of the French Capital and the summertime small hours.

This time around, our wanderer-in-residence is screenwriter Gil - ‘wow’... it’s Owen Wilson! - on vacation with glitz and glam fiance, Inez - a Malibu-ified Rachel McAdams. Following Inez’s unlikely reunion with ‘friend’ - cough*watch-this-space*cough - Paul, a pseudo-intellectual wine geek and all-round insufferable prat, Gil takes to pacing the streets of a moonlit Paris in search of some ‘fresh air’.  

Prepare to have any expectations of your next romantic sojourn raised to entirely unrealistic heights

But as the clock strikes midnight, and a beetle-black-cab rolls into view - Gil is taken a little further afield than he anticipated. Top Tip: got square eyes from isolation-movie-no.568595? Spotify has the soundtrack; whack it on and grab a coffee, a cigarette, a book - and voila - Parisian cafe a la living room!

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) dir. Wez Anderson

India is the picturesque, rough and ready setting for this Anderson familial sentimentality | IMDb / Fox Searchlight Pictures

I’m sorry - what’s that? You think I have a vaguely-unhealthy-thing for late night cities, the humdrum of a traveller stuffed train and that ever-amusing-lunatic Owen Wilson? Well - you’re not wrong. Next up, we’re in India with Wez Anderson, for his golden-rail-road-movie, The Darjeeling Limited.

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Three brothers - Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, Jason Schwazmann - reunite to embark on a ‘spiritual journey’, and make sibling amends. When it transpires that Francis has a seperate agenda - that the trio visit their mother at her convent in the Himalayas - things get a little trickier. Darjeeling is hot, dusy tuk tuk rides and cramped trains lost in deserts; it’s slow motion three-brothers-abreast power strides and kick-and-punch-sibling-tussles…

In classic Anderson style, it’s a bit more than just some impressively-symmetrical-fun - it’s also delightfully sentimental. ‘I wonder if the three of us could have been friends in real life - not as brothers, but as people’, Jack asks his forever-bickering siblings. The Darjeeling Limited is a gentle meditation on the lengths we travel for the people we love the most.

Three Wives, One Husband (2017)

The titular polygamist families live in an unreal Utahn landscape, almost too picture-perfect to be practical | IMDb / KEO Films

This Netflix documentary listing on fundamentalist Mormons might seem like a rogue choice - but hear me out. The show follows a society of Latter Day Saint believers who have taken themselves out of the local community in Utah and established a makeshift village in the face of a giant rock. Yes, you heard me right, a rock.

This is something so close to being recognisable that it is made all the more foreign

The documentary gives you a taste of a slice of life completely foreign to most of us, and is visually stunning. Houses carved out of sheer rock face, with multitudes of children with old testament names zip-wiring across the sunset; trampolines on desert ground overlooking snowy landscapes mere miles away; nearly self-sufficient farming communities with bunkers of food ready for a biblical apocalypse, juxtaposed with soccer-mom-vans and iPhones...

The show evokes a Freudian idea of the uncanny - this is something so close to being recognisable that it is made all the more foreign. After just a few minutes I found myself longing for a legion of babies of my own, sharing my husband with sister-wives, in a beautiful red rock.

Dark Tourist (2018-)

Narrator Farrier is witness, sometimes unwillingly, to all the weird and wonderfulness the world holds | IMDb / Fumes Production

Another fantastic Netflix offering is the documentary series Dark Tourist, following Theroux style presenter David Farrier as he explores tourist spots ranging from thrill-seekers to the truly macabre. From tours that let you experience life as a refugee crossing the Mexico-United States border to serial killer enthusiasts, from live nuclear active disaster sites to voodoo festivals, the series traverses the topics too taboo for regular consumption.

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As well as offering a walk on the wild side, the show is an armchair tourist’s dream - as Farrier takes the trouble of travelling off your hands. The show explores beautiful African landscapes to hauntingly beautiful Japanese forests, Cypriot cities and literal warzones, and my personal dream spot of New Orleans. Get your Maps app out and get planning, because as soon as you can you will want to follow Farrier’s footsteps across our wonderfully weird world.

Seven Worlds, One Planet (2019-)

Seven Worlds is a non-stop one-hop trip around the planet from the safety of your own home | IMDb / BBC Natural History Unit (NHU)

Of course, no documentary listing would be complete without an offering from Papa Attenborough. With so many to choose from, his newest offering must reign supreme in the travel agency of armchair tourism. Seven continents offer an eye-opening glimpse of our planet’s cohabitants, and the danger we have put them in.

It can be depressing at times to see the tragedy of the world: we all must know the familiar gut-wrenching ‘Sophie’s choice’ where the audience are left rooting for both the predator and the prey. However, the biggest tragedy is the result of our species’ undying greed and sprawling annexing of the natural world.

As well as offering a walk on the wild side, the show is an armchair tourist’s dream

We are lucky in a sense to be of a generation where we still have the world’s wonders around while we are. COVID-19 and the subsequent fallback of tourism has seen exceptional environmental effects: Thai monkey gangs roaming into cities, elephants drunk on corn wine, and dolphins in Venice. So sit back, watch some Attenborough, and see what could be possible if we were all a little readier to share this planet.

Featured: IMDb / Sony Pictures Classics


What are you watching to let your mind wander while your body stays put?

AUTHOR

Leah Martindale

Part-time Film & Television MA student; full-time Instagram storier, and ABBA enthusiast; amateur film critic. Can always be found writing from bed.