5. The Help (2011)
Based in 1960s America, The Help portrays a society where all the household helps are black women facing racism at such a deeply rooted level that it has become an accepted norm. Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, is an aspiring journalist who becomes extremely aware of this blatant discrimination and decides to capture such stories from the perspective of the helps. However, this seemingly simple task becomes daunting as most of the women had been in their respective families for years and feared losing their jobs as well as the trust of their employers once the story got out. Skeeter’s strong-headed persuasion and her promise to keep all the stories anonymous gradually got them to open up and what followed was nothing less than a revolution.
The film features an amazing cast of Viola Davis who plays one of the household helps forming the central narrative of the story. We also have Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain who give an accurate portrayal of the distinctive all-white fraternity but polar opposites in their idea of equality.
Inspiration: The willpower and resolve to stand for what you believe in no matter what.
4. Marvellous (2014)
This is the story of a man who refused to give up on his dream of coaching his local football club. A very unlikely candidate for such a position, Neil Baldwin is a man who was born with learning disabilities. He never let this setback become an obstacle for him and never stopped following what he loved doing. At the age of 16, he left school to join Robert Fossett’s Circus where he worked as a clown for several years. His next love was his local Stoke City Football Club which wasn’t a top-ranking club but Neil was a big fan and wished nothing more than to work with them. Even though he had an impediment, it was soon overshadowed by his honest charm and strong sincerity. This quality of his opened doors to the most unlikely of situations.
Toby Jones is astounding as Neil and his characterisation is warm and authentic. Director Julian Farino, narrates the story through Neil’s perspective and at the same time cuts to conversations between Toby and the real Neil Baldwin throughout the story giving it a lot more meaning and character.
Inspiration: Never give up on your dreams and never stop believing in yourself.
3. Frost/Nixon (2009)
Directed by Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon is a classic David vs Goliath story based on a TV interview of USA’s ex-President Richard Nixon taken by British journalist David Frost. Both men had their own motives for going through with this. On one hand, Nixon administration had just gone through the Watergate Scandal and thought that this could be a good opportunity to salvage his reputation. Frost’s ambitions were different though. There was no motive to expose or humiliate Nixon, as a journalist might want. His only motivation was to gain some popularity for his producers and his TV channel and be done with it. However, things turn out quite differently from what either men imagined. As Frost throws one question after another, Nixon is seen to become more and more uncomfortable in his chair giving us some of the most memorable performances ever.
Frank Langella’s portrayal of a cornered Nixon is phenomenal. A strong personality now broken down and having to answer to the nation is not something you get to see everyday. Michael Sheen, as a young aspiring TV journalist who faces one of the giants of the world, does an amazing depiction of a man who struggles between his fear for a powerful man and a penchant for bringing out the answers. Unsurprisingly, this film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor among others in the 2009 Oscars.
Inspiration: Never be afraid. Sometimes fear takes you to heights you could never have had the motivation to achieve.
2. Front of the Class (2008)
Brad Cohen, as a young boy is diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome which is a neuro-psychiatric disorder resulting in uncontrollable nervous tics and phonetic impairment. Due to the lack of awareness among the general population, Cohen struggled a lot in school wherein his nervous tics were assumed to be some sort of unruly behaviour as a backlash to the divorce between his parents. Some even suggested exorcism. However, thanks to the foresight of his school’s principal, Cohen was able to spread awareness about the Syndrome among his peers.
As Brad graduates, he discovers his love for teaching and starts looking for positions as an Elementary School teacher. He is rejected many times due to his condition however, one school agrees to give him a chance to try it out. With sheer determination and confidence he not only earns the respect of his students and peers but also earns the distinction of the Teacher of the Year.
Jimmy Wolk is astounding as Cohen and brings a very authentic character on screen through his accurate portrayal of the struggles of TS.
Inspiration: You are your own obstacle. You overcome that and you’re unstoppable.
This was before Mozart became synonymous with sheer genius, before he became a legend as we know him. Amadeus is a narrative by a senile but equally brilliant Italian Composer Antonio Salieri who once had Mozart as his apprentice. His story, as he narrates, to a priest is one of immaculate passion and maniacal talent which was impossible to contain. Salieri who had earned his reputation and position has the official court musician of Emperor Joseph II, found it extremely unfair that a teenager had been handed over such an enormous gift, one which allowed him to compose elaborate operas at a tender age, an understanding of music unheard of. Through Salieri’s eyes, we see the flaws of a Mozart, his rise into a legend and his equally precipitous fall.
Director Milos Forman’s portrayal of the extreme frustration of a man whose ingenuity was questioned by the lesser discerning populace, his struggle with his personal life and family, his gradual decay is undeniably powerful.
Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is addictive and influential. F. Murray Abraham’s characterisation of a Salieri is one of the best performances we have ever seen.
Inspiration: There will always be someone better than you but that does not mean you stop improving yourself. Remember, even geniuses can fall.
Hope you liked this list. We will keep bringing you such lesser known pieces as you accompany us in our foray into exploring the best of world cinema.
Happy watching !