Cary Fukunaga’s Favorite Films about Growing Up the Hard Way

Growing Up is Hard to Do

The new adaptation of Jane Eyre––directed by Cary Fukunaga with Mia Wasikowska (as Jane) and Michael Fassbender (as Rochester)––tells many stories. On one level it’s a timeless romance; on another it’s a creepy gothic chiller. But one facet that’s often overlooked is how it tells a tale about childhood, about a young orphan girl betrayed by her family, tormented at her school, left to her own devices to make her way in the world. For Cary Fukunaga, the subject of children struggling in the world connects Charlotte Brontë’s 19th century novel to his own 21st century tale of Latin American immigration in his first feature Sin Nombre. Considering his interest in this theme, we asked Cary Fukunaga then to pick five films about tough childhoods that have impressed him.

Beau Geste

The romantic notion of the Vikings Funeral, the unconditional camaraderie of the orphaned brothers, as well as the mystery of the stolen jewel all swept my imagination away -- so much so that when I was eight, I dressed up as a French Foreign Legionnaire for Halloween. 

Boogie Nights

While not necessarily orphaned as a child, Dirk Diggler is definitely no adult when he leaves home to become a big bright shining star in the world of Porn.  I think this is still one of the best movies ever made and an incredible portrait of the non-traditional recreation of a family. 

Empire of the Sun
Christian Bale was just a few years older than me when this movie came out. I had a similar obsession with aviation at the time and was amazed with the character's resourcefulness, and how he grew and hustled for the duration of the war. The scene that I still think about is at the end, when parents and children are being reunited, and neither he nor his parents can recognize each other.
Anne of Green Gables (1985)
I first saw this in Spanish on a television in a hut on the beach in Mexico when I was about ten years old. I have always loved period films, and this particular one really got to me; the images of Prince Edward Island couldn't be more different than the dusty town I was in near Cabo, so when my family got back to the States, I tracked down the whole series and watched them one week while feverish with pneumonia. To this day, I'm waiting for an opportunity to get drunk on raspberry cordial.
A Time for Drunken Horses
This remarkable film by Bahman Ghobadi, acted by real kids from the street, showed the heartbreaking solidarity of young children without parents, trying to keep their family together and help their sick younger sibling. This and "Nobody Knows" are two of my favorite films about families made up of children.
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