For those of you who like to press on the bruise
I’ve been trying to do my small part to keep people occupied during “stay at home” by recommending streaming movies that will take your mind off of things.
These are not those movies.
It’s probably best to avoid films that center on isolation or loneliness or anxiety, but I’ve also had a few nights where I’ve said screw it and leaned into those feelings.
I’ve found some of these to be oddly therapeutic, but again, check your mental health first.
“The Lighthouse” (Prime)
Director Robert Eggers’ follow-up to “The Witch” was one of the best films of last year. It’s also a hallucinatory nightmare depicting life in isolation with a bad roommate, Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson driving each other mad as the keepers of a remote New England lighthouse.
I don’t know if there’s ever a “right” time for a Lars von Trier movie, but if you’re in the mood for some end-of-the-world existential dread, follow along as a wealthy family isolates itself to prepare for a looming threat to Earth’s existence. Fun!
Director (and David Bowie’s son) Duncan Jones made a fantastic debut with this movie, which stars Sam Rockwell as an astronaut nearing the end of a three-year stint stationed alone on the moon.
“High Life” (Prime)
Let’s make it a double-feature of “isolation in space” movies, because why not? Robert Pattinson stars as a father raising his young daughter alone on a spaceship. Honestly, if you’ve been sleeping on post-”Twilight” Pattinson, don’t.
Isolated parenthood is not an easy topic to deal with right now, and there’s not much easy about this book adaptation, which landed Brie Larson an Oscar for her portrayal of a mother raising her young son while being held captive in a basement. It does end on a life-affirming note, if that helps.
“Ex Machina” (Netflix)
Alex Garland’s directorial debut was a sci-fi gem featuring stellar performances throughout, as Domhnall Gleeson plays a programmer picked to travel to the isolated home of an eccentric tech bro (Oscar Isaac) to test an experimental AI.
Alex Garland’s follow-up to “Ex Machina” was nearly as good, and also fits this bill. Natalie Portman plays a biologist selected for a secret mission to explore a phenomenon that, you guessed it, threatens Earth’s existence.
Staying in the sci-fi lane, here’s an underrated indie by writer-director James Ward Byrkit about a dinner party that takes a mind-bending turn the night a comet passes by Earth. Perfect for those nights when you’re asking, what is reality anyway?
Spike Jonze’s tender story of a lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who finds an unexpected connection with, um, an operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is a weird watch as we’re all experiencing human interaction through our devices, but it’s worth it.
“The Descent” (Hulu/Prime)
Not feeling terrified or claustrophobic? This impossibly tense horror flick about a group of friends whose innocent caving expedition takes a turn will take care of that!
“Cabin Fever” (Netflix)
Eli Roth’s horror debut is so on-the-nose that I actually bought a digital copy in quarantine, but you can just head to Netflix if you feel like watching a group of young people grappling with a mysterious infectious disease in the middle of the woods.
“The Cabin in the Woods” (Hulu)
Let’s make it a cabin double-feature! This meta horror-comedy takes the old “group of young people in the woods” tropes and gives them a wild twist. OK, this one is actually just fun.