by Milan Perera, Arts Critic Columnist
“Knowledge is power, which is why I want to know everything […] I need to be in a place where people have a passion for knowledge, think it’s important – sacred even”, muses Brian Jackson, the prospective university student, in the opening monologue to Starter For 10 (2006).
University is undoubtedly a new chapter of your life. After all, it is often the first time you leave home, moving to a new metropolis with fresh hopes and aspirations. And then, there’s Freshers’ Week to look forward to. Some 300 student societies are currently preparing their best sales pitches to recruit some fresh blood. The relentless marathon of welcome parties also helps melt away the shards of homesickness and isolation.
Here are our top picks of film and television to get you prepared for this exciting time over the next few weeks.
Fresh Meat (2011–2016)
Fresh Meat is as good as it gets, providing you with a dry run of university life with its own set of challenges. These number the relentless rounds of assignments, dalliances, broken relationships and financial worries of university, with varying degrees of eccentricity. Set in the fictional Medlock University in Manchester, the core cast of Fresh Meat consists of flatmates Vod, Oregon, Josie, Kingsley, JP and Howard.
They hail from different social backgrounds with varying grasp of reality. JP is the irritating upper middle-class scion who is livid with himself for not getting into a "proper" university, played to perfection by Jack Whitehall. And there is the proverbial flat nerd, the third-year Geology student, Howard, who has seen many undergraduate combinations over the years with their complex web of lies, deceit and psycho-sexual power dynamics and wishes to remain aloof. From the creators of the Peep Show, the four seasons consist of 30 episodes which would make the perfect "bingeathon" on a wet weekend.
Pitch Perfect (2012)
This iconic movie is nothing short of a masterpiece, with its spotlight firmly fixed on the innocuous – but nevertheless intense – turf war of two rival student societies. It is Freshers Week at Barden University, where the ever-inventive student societies are doing their best to recruit new members.
One student society that is not so desperate to enrol new members is the all-male a cappella group, the Treble Makers. They are the Winners of the much-coveted ICCA finals, beating their arch-rivals, the all-female Barden Bellas. The latter is intent on salvaging some pride in the next year’s competition against their overconfident male counterparts. Into this pervasive atmosphere walks in Beca (played by Anna Kendrick), an introverted radio DJ who has no intention of taking a cappella seriously.
Pitch Perfect is a story of friendships, romances, compromises, and the quintessential pitfalls of university life. It is an enormously enjoyable cinematic experience with a star-studded cast.
Starter For 10 (2016)
This gem of a movie is based on the debut novel of Bristol alumni David Nicholls. Starter For 10 revolves around the university experience of Brian Jackson (played by James McAvoy) Brian Jackson thinks he broke the glass ceiling by getting a place to study English Literature at the University of Bristol, which isn’t bad for a working-class teenager from Essex who was raised by a widowed mother.
Brian wheels his luggage up the steep hill of Royal York Crescent in Clifton, where he meets his two sophisticated flatmates playing ping-pong in drag. The surprise of the Freshers does not end there, as Brian is invited to a “Vicars and Tarts” themed welcome party, where he comes across a group of fascinating characters all studying at the university.
Underneath the goofiness, romantic escapades and recreational excess, there is an undeniable social commentary that makes this a wholesome movie experience with plenty of poignant moments.
Clique (2017 – 2018)
Georgia and Holly have been friends since they were eleven, both choosing Edinburgh for their university studies. Co-dependent Georgia chooses the macroeconomic module only because Holly is doing it, yet at the welcome lecture by the programme director, Professor Jude McDermid, they are both taken in by her unconventional views on gender equality and wealth creation and soon are swept up in an elite sorority group…
Clique is an adrenaline-pumping thriller not to be missed.
Normal People (2020)
It was the love story that restored the sanity of a nation during the lockdown. Based on the bestselling novel by Sally Rooney, the 12-part drama revolves around the lives and loves of Marianne and Connell, whose secret school romance is reignited when they meet again at Trinity College, Dublin.
Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as the titular characters, Normal People deftly captures the agony, ecstasy, resentment and jealousy associated with teenage “first cut is the deepest” love. The on-and-off romance of Marianne and Connell is jarringly refreshing and realistic; a hypnotic and sensual reverie by the directors, Lenny Abrahamson and the Bristol alumni, Hettie Macdonald.
Now… settle into your new home and have fun! Before we wrap up, here are some pearls of wisdom from the inimitable Dr Sheldon Cooper in order to thrive in Freshers Week and beyond:
‘When someone is in distress, offer them a hot beverage. If they’ve been drinking, that beverage is coffee. And serve it with a smile [...] When someone is sick, help them to bed, tuck them in, and sing Soft Kitty.
Featured Image: IMDB
Which of our Fresher's picks do you think is the most accurate depiction of student life?