By Briony Havergill, Second Year, Film and Television
This Mother’s Day is different to most; you can’t take your mum out for afternoon tea or treat her to a meal. For those of us in our student accommodation, we can’t even spend the day with her. What you can do, however, is cosy up and watch a film. Thankfully, it's also possible to share the following recommendations from a safe distance thanks to the joys of modern technology. So, crack open a box of chocolates, grab a cuppa, and settle in.
My favourite film to watch with my mum is Pixar’s Brave. Following the story of a feisty princess who accidentally turns her mother into a bear to avoid her impending betrothal, Brave depicts the turbulence of the mother/daughter bond with warmth and affability. It explores the disconnect that happens as children grow more independent, the strained communication that inevitably arises from this, and the understanding that comes with accepting that you are not your mother and your child is not you.
It’s also just plain old Pixar fun.
Often overlooked in favour of its contemporaries, Brave has some beautiful animation, a story full of rich Scottish Gaelic influence, and an excellent voice cast. If you and your mum are up for something just as magical as it is maternal, Brave is a solid choice.
However, I will admit that both my mum and I end up in floods of tears upon every rewatch, so have tissues at hand.
Little Women (2019)
A modern take on the classic coming-of-age novel by Louisa May Alcott, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is full of heart. Whilst the focus is on the ‘little women’ themselves, their relationship with their mother, affectionately dubbed ‘Marmee’ (Laura Dern), is at the centre of their family dynamic.
Not content with rearing just her own girls, Marmee treats the motherless Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) as if he were her own son. I would argue that Laurie doesn’t just fall in love with two of the March sisters; he also falls in love with the idea of being a part of the March family, raised as he was under Marmee’s gentle guidance.
I’m sure that most people can see themselves reflected in at least one of this literary classic’s main characters, and that most mothers probably see traces of themselves in the character of Marmee. This is what makes the story so enduring and accessible, a simple tale of family standing together to face life’s trials.
I’ve chosen Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation purely for the strength of the cast, but I’ll be honest, any version of this timeless classic is worth a watch with mum (the 1994 Gillian Armstrong version and the 2017 BBC version are solid interpretations).
Mamma Mia! (2008)
It wouldn’t be a Mother’s Day list without at least a mention of this cheesy jukebox musical. Mamma Mia! and its sequel are good fun for everyone, after all, who can resist ABBA, the stunning views of Skopelos, and a brilliant ensemble cast?
So what if some of the musical performances are a miss? (Pierce Brosnan’s attempt at SOS comes to mind). Most of them are downright entertaining. Special mention goes to Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried’s performance of Slipping Through My Fingers, inspired by ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog’s relationship with their daughter. It may be sickeningly sweet fluff, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need. And after the year we’ve had, I think all of us and our mums deserve a night on the couch with Mamma Mia! and a box of chocolates.
Frozen II (2019)
Hear me out. Whilst not as explosively popular as its predecessor, Frozen II has more depth, more soul, and a superior soundtrack. The musical numbers are expressive and often bizarre, and the animation focuses more on emotion than coherency, setting the sequel apart from the more straightforward storytelling of Frozen. It's a treat for both the eyes and the ears.
At the heart of the film is Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) relationship with her late mother, a distinct shift of focus from the sisterly bonding of the first film. It becomes a Disney-fied journey of self-discovery as Elsa follows the call of a mysterious voice, travelling through her mother’s childhood home, clutching her mother’s shawl, only to discover that the voice belongs to her mother’s memory.
It’s weird, dark, and often bleak, but it’s also magical and indulgent, guaranteed to make you feel at least a little tug at your heartstrings.
There is something so sweet about the relationship between Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonksy) and her mother Edna (John Travolta). Tracy’s affection for her mother is boundless, and it is refreshing to see a mother/daughter dynamic in which they mutually boost each other’s confidence.
The film’s soundtrack features hit after hit after hit. Of course, special mention must be made of Welcome to the Sixties as the musical number in which Tracy encourages her mother to let loose and embrace the freedoms of the new decade.
Also, it would be a disservice not to praise the role of Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah), the mother, disc jockey, and activist who not only fights for integration, but also stands up for Tracy and Edna all whilst raising her own children. Hairspray is wholesome, inspiring, and full of catchy songs that you’ll inevitably hear your mum humming around the house.
This is not an exhaustive list, I’m aware that I haven’t included much content containing the mother/son relationship, but I haven't come across many, and I hardly think that We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) is an appropriate choice for Mothering Sunday.
However, some films that centre around this dynamic include Room (2015), Boyhood (2014), Stardust (2007), Toy Story 3 (2010), Treasure Planet (2002), and the How to Train Your Dragon franchise (2010-2019).
If none of these are to your fancy, other suggestions include Lady Bird (2017), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), The Incredibles (2004), Spirited Away (2001), The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013), Pride and Prejudice (2005), Roma (2018), and Coraline (2009).
What will you be watching this Mother's Day?