I have been wanting to watch more documentaries, and I finally started last week. I always hear about great documentaries, so I decided to include some in my lunchtime viewing. My first one was Without a Home, an award-winning documentary about homelessness. Young director Rachel Fleisher shot the film over a four-year period in Los Angeles. She drives around the city and finds six different homeless people/families to profile. There are two addicts (one who manages to get clean and one who fails), a family all living in a tiny room, a young woman who is mentally handicapped due to childhood abuse, and others. Rachel chose a variety of people in a variety of situations, which gives you a broad idea of the scope of the problem, the different reasons someone might become homeless, and the barriers to getting back on their feet. In the process, she becomes a part of the story herself, as she gets involved in their lives and does what she can to help. It was an enlightening and very moving film, and I cried both tears of happiness and sorrow. Ultimately, Rachel shows what it is like to be homeless, how challenging it can be to dig out of that situation, and the deep and complex issues that contribute to the problem.
I have been dying to see the movie Wild ever since it was released because I loved the powerful memoir (book review here) it was based on. When I saw it listed as part of our local city's annual Film Festival last week, I invited a friend along to see it with me (we both love the outdoors). Wild is the true story of a young woman named Cheryl Strayed who set off on the Pacific Crest Trail with absolutely no preparation for a 3-month long, 1000-mile hike in the hopes of literally saving her life. Cheryl spiraled downward into ever-more destructive behavior after her mother died from cancer, cheating on her husband with strangers, drinking to excess, and even using heroin. This is the story of her epic long-distance hike but also of her healing emotional journey along that trail. It starts with her first setting out on the trail (as an experienced backpacker, it hurt me to see how poorly prepared she was!) but flashes back to how she got to that point. While it is moving and emotionally powerful, it is also funny and entertaining. This is an all-star, top-notch film from every perspective. Reese Witherspoon was so moved by the book that she bought the film rights and starred in the movie, and she is absolutely amazing in this role, just as powerful as Julianne Moore in Still Alice (who won the Best Actress Oscar). In addition, Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay, and the scenery is just stunning. Brilliant from beginning to end and highly recommended.
Finally, my husband and I watched The Judge Saturday night at home, a movie we've both been wanting to see for a while. This is another movie with an all-star cast and excellent acting, including Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role as Hank, a successful, cutthroat Chicago lawyer who goes home to his small town for his mother's funeral. His father, played by Robert Duvall, is a prominent local judge, and it's clear from the start that he and Hank are estranged. Hank's two brothers (one of them played by Vincent D'Onofrio) have stayed in town, but all three sons call their father "Judge," as does everyone else in town. Hank plans to leave as soon as the funeral is over, but a tragedy occurs and before long, his father has been arrested and accused of murder. Despite their differences and animosity for each other, Hank can see that his father needs his help, so he stays to defend him. We loved this suspenseful and emotionally powerful movie. It's a legal drama but mainly it is about family relationships and overcoming past hurts.
Have you seen any good movies lately?