Come January, many of us greet the New Year with a fierce determination to change. We start diets, join gyms, and enroll in online classes to learn conversational Japanese. Never mind that many of these fine resolutions fizzle out by February. To encourage you to stick with your dreams, we’re offering some cinematic inspiration to get you going when the going gets tough. From a tale of man changing his lifestyle to save his life to a young woman becoming the person she was meant to be, here are five films to help you find your resolve to change.
Change Your Fate | Dallas Buyers Club
In Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey delivers an Academy Award-winning performance as Ron Woodroof, a heterosexual party-loving cowboy who turns his life around when he is diagnosed with HIV. Refusing to accept his fate, Woodroof leads a health care revolution by smuggling in unapproved medicine to help him and others. “He was fightin’ for – I mean, what’s the highest common denominator you can fight for? Your life,” McConaughey says about what drove his character. Salon salutes Woodroof’s story of transformation as “a fierce celebration of the unpredictable power that belongs to the outcast.”
Change Your Identity | The Danish Girl
Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl brings to the screen the remarkable tale of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne). With the support of Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), Lili follows her heart, transitioning to a woman at a time when there were few medical facilities––and even fewer role models––to help her. With an Academy Award-nominated performance by Redmayne and an Oscar for Vikander for Best Supporting Actress, the film embraces fully its characters and their courage to change. “Watching Redmayne’s character blossom into her true self is remarkable, and the awkwardness getting there only helps make it more relatable to audiences,” notes USA Today. Helping more change occur, Focus established the Lili Elbe Fellowship for a promising transgender filmmaker.
Change Your Future | Pariah
Dee Rees’ debut feature Pariah highlights the hope and heartbreak of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a 17-year-old African American discovering her sexuality and poetic spirit. When her mother (Kim Wayans) has a hard time accepting her for who she is, Alike makes the difficult choice to move forward on her own, to become, as she describes so beautifully in verse, “open / Broken to the new light without pushing in / Open to the possibilities within, pushing out.” Noting how Oduye “is wonderful, the movie inspiring,” Time Magazine describes how Alike “finds other doors beyond those she’s always known, and the courage to walk through them.”
Change the World | Motorcycle Diaries
The tagline for Walter Salles’ Motorcycle Diaries reads, “Let the world change you... and you can change the world.” In the film, Ernesto Guevara (Gael García Bernal)––long before he became the revolutionary Che––joins his best friend Alberto Grando (Rodrigo de la Serna) to travel the length of South America. First on motorcycles, then by whatever means possible, the two young men experience both the beauty of the landscape and the people they meet, allowing each encounter to transform them. For The New York Times, the film “unabashedly revives the venerable, romantic notion that travel can enlarge the soul, and even change the world.”
Change Your Mind | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The premise of Michel Gondry’s mind-bending love story Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is that a simple operation can change people's futures by removing their most painful romantic memories. After Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has hired Lacuna, Inc. to erase him, he decides to remove all memories of her as well. But despite his best intentions, love keeps finding a way back into their lives. For many, Eternal Sunshine has became a modern classic by ineffably capturing the constantly changing nature of love itself. In watching the movie, Entertainment Weekly explains, “you don’t just watch a love story––you fall in love with what love really is.”