On Growth: Five Movies That Approach Growth Through a Fresh Lens

Photo by Kleigh Balugo

By Molly Zofia

If you know me, then you know I spend so much time watching movies that it borders on being a bit sad. But for me, film is one of the most beautiful forms of human expression that we have. I love film because it enables so many people to see the world from different perspectives, wherever they are. And so, for the theme of ‘Sprouting’ this month, I have put together a short list of five movies that approach growth from essential perspectives. Each film on this list approaches real-life issues in ways that are tender, sometimes unexpected, but representative of what life can really feel like when we are convinced as though we are truly alone. They also present ways in which we can grow from these scenarios realistically.

I hope you enjoy this selection and feel persuaded to give some of them a watch!

1. Drive My Car

Directed by: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

“Those who survive keep thinking about the dead.”

“What can we do? We must live our lives.”

Drive My Car is loosely based on a short story in the anthology Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami which follows Yusuke, a recent widow, embarking on his journey to a residency while being chauffeured (despite his hesitance to accept this). His misgivings with his chauffeur- Misaki- slowly gives way to build a bond between them that allows them to both reveal painful secrets that they have been wordlessly holding onto. Drive My Car is a deeply cathartic film with beautiful cinematography and writing, one that I would recommend to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the tragedies of true life and the hopefulness of human connection. One of my favourite movies of all time. 

2. Lady Bird

Directed by: Greta Gerwig

“Why is it in quotes?”

“I gave it to myself. It’s given to me, by me.”

In terms of growth and reinvention, Lady Bird gets it right. It doesn’t just understand the theme, it gets right under there. Christine is preparing to set off for college from her small town, suffocated by her turbulent relationship with her mother and her dissatisfaction with life. She chooses a new name for herself- Lady Bird- and desperately clings to the hopes of a new life on the East Coast. 

But Lady Bird is trying to reinvent herself without knowing who she truly is, or indeed who she wants to become. Lady Bird, to me, represents the “butterfly moment” that every person eventually experiences through growth and self-acceptance.  Growth is never going to happen if you don’t explicitly acknowledge the parts of yourself that you need to change, and this movie is a great example of how to confront the “messy” side of development.

3. The Florida Project

Directed by: Sean Baker

“You know why this is my favorite tree? Cause it’s tipped over and it’s still growing.”

This slice of life movie follows a group of children drifting through the summer in bounds of optimism, despite the emotional and financial struggles of the adults in their lives. The Florida Project was shot entirely on 35mm film with deep saturation to juxtapose the reality of what it is like for a child to truly live in poverty. 

As the summer runs its course, our protagonist Moonee’s mother (Hailey) struggles to find full-time employment and the motel manager tries his best to keep a watchful eye on the kids. The growth in this movie is subtle, but it is there. It’s in the small moments where Halley realizes the effect her child’s upbringing is having on her, and the attempts of the adults to ensure the safety of the children. It is a movie captured in warmth and joy, encouraging viewers to feel empathy for the characters. I feel that this movie is essential for anyone to watch at least once in their lifetime.

This movie is deeply nostalgic and meaningful to me because it paints a relatable image of childhood. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do if you do decide to watch it. 

4. Frances Ha

Directed by: Noah Baumbach

“I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.”

Frances Halladay is most of us in some way. At 27 years old, she still doesn’t have her life figured out. Her best friend Sophie, with whom Frances has lived with for years, is moving to a more expensive and desirable area of New York and leaving her behind. Frances doesn’t even have a credit card yet. I love Frances Ha because it covers the messiness of “growing up” in your 20s. Most people don’t have their lives sorted out at the age Frances is and we are almost taught to be embarrassed about it. If you’ve ever worried about a five-year plan or career goals before, then this movie may lend an alternative – and potentially more realistic – point of view that is worth watching. 

5. The King of Staten Island

Directed by: Judd Apatow

“I think I’m just stupid.” 

I love Pete Davidson and so I was really excited about this film coming out. I watched this just before I turned 24 – the same age as the protagonist – and found myself relating to a lot of Scott’s life. Scott has been drifting through his twenties aimlessly, spending his days smoking weed with his friends and giving out terrible tattoos while trying to come to terms with the death of his father, who passed away when he was seven years old. His life is thrown into unprecedented waters when his mom starts dating again and his little sister goes off to college. Scott is presented with a difficult question: does he want to stay the way he has always been and risk being alone, or should he endure painful growth on a path that leads to the unknown?

The King of Staten Island is a mostly feel-good movie that deals with change in a quiet and understated way. This movie has a special place in my heart because of the way in which it depicts how grief can affect lives long-term. There is no “real way” to simply recover from loss, and it’s okay to take your time figuring out what your life should look like after experiencing something so devastating.


1 comment

  1. Hey Molly, I really liked your list and I will be definitely be checking out drive my car and Frances ha, also I love the Florida project and the other movies you listed.


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