Illustration by Sky Kim
During a time when we find ourselves feeling uncertain, our search for escapism only heightens. With a digital library filled with films and a play button waiting to be pressed, stories are waiting to be discovered and offer you a new sense of reality. As the news during this pandemic only seems to escalate, one topic of conversation has been the arts—how in times of stress, fear, and anxiety, entertainment has brought people together.
Movies have the power to take you elsewhere, and during this quarantine, it’s been the number one go-to escape for everyone. So it’s only right to let you in on some of the best indie darlings provided by A24, the studio responsible for some of the best critically acclaimed films.
Lady Bird (2017, dir. Greta Gerwig)
This film tells the story of Christine McPherson (AKA Lady Bird) as she navigates her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento. It’s a sweet and charming dramedy of a young girl coming to terms with her identity, her relationship with her mother, and the place she’s from. This Oscar-nominated film has become a fan favorite for Gerwig’s spectacular writing and its on-screen lead, Saoirse Ronan. Lady Bird is 90 minutes of perfectly packaged honesty and humor.
The Farewell (2019, dir. Lulu Wang)
This 2019 favorite and Oscar snub is based on a lie. Following the tragic news that her beloved grandma has fallen ill and only has a few months to live, a Chinese-American woman (played by Awkwafina) must go back to China to attend an impromptu wedding in order to see her grandma one last time while keeping the truth hidden from her. It’s a story of a woman trying to come to terms with two different cultures and what it means to be a family in the midst of it all. If you’re in the mood for a heartfelt yet funny story, look no further.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019, dir. Joe Talbot)
The first five minutes of this film will make you fall in love. It takes place in the heart of San Francisco, where a young man named Jimmie Falls dreams of reclaiming the home his grandfather once built. Jimmie and his best friend Mont spend their days visiting the house, making alterations without the permission of the couple who lives there. Then, one day, it becomes vacant and he secretly moves in. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is Joe Talbot’s directorial debut, which surprised me considering how uniquely this film was shot with its attention to detail and alluring visuals. Let’s just say I’m looking forward to what he does next.
Midsommar (2019, dir. Ari Aster)
The less you know about this film the better, and if you can avoid watching the trailer then do so! Midsommar is a folk horror film taking place in Sweden where a couple of friends are invited to be a part of some festivities that take place every 90 years. What may at first seem like a fun vacation soon turns out to be their worst nightmare. It stars Florence Pugh in a breakout performance.
20th Century Women (2016, dir. Mike Mills)
20th Century Women is a smart and witty window into the lives of an unconventional family. This Mike Mills fan favorite takes place in 1979 Santa Barbara, where a single mother in her mid-50s enlists the help of two younger women to help her son navigate an era of cultural change and rebellion. It features an all-star cast with the likes of Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, and Billy Crudup.
Swiss Army Man (2016, dir. Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan)
If you’re looking for something weird and out-of-the-box to watch, Swiss Army Man is it. It stars Harry Potter favorite Daniel Radcliffe and indie darling Paul Dano. Labeled as a “fart-house masterpiece” by A24, Swiss Army Man is a mind-bending, electric ride. It follows Hank (Paul Dano), a man trapped on a tiny island trying to find his way back home. When a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore, Hank soon discovers that the corpse might be his only way out. As a viewer, you’ll get to experience a bromance you’ve never seen before, with quick turns and bizarre happenings. It’s worth every minute of your time, I promise.
Ex Machina (2015, dir. Alex Garland)
After winning a competition to spend a week-long retreat with his company’s CEO, a 25-year-old coder (played by Domhnall Gleesonn) finds himself in a remote location where he becomes a part of an experiment to interact with the world’s first artificial intelligence. He soon discovers secrets are being kept from which leads him into a journey of the unknown.
Eighth Grade (2018, dir. Bo Burnham)
Eighth Grade is one of my top four favorite films. Bo Burnham’s directorial debut stars then-newcomer Elsie Fisher as Kayla, a 13-year-old girl struggling through her last year of middle school. Filled with anxiety and immersed in the world of social media, Kayla experiences the ups and downs of being young during a time when nothing feels certain. It’s a beautiful and accurate picture of what it feels like to be uncomfortable in your own skin.
Good Time (2017, dir. The Safdie Brothers)
This is a truly thrill-inducing film that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Robert Pattinson shines in this critically acclaimed performance as Connie Nikas, a man on the run after robbing a bank with his disabled brother, Nick. After Nick gets caught and sent to jail, Connie goes on a mission to acquire bail money for his brother while avoiding capture on the run in New York City.
Room (2015, dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
In a role that won Brie Larson the Academy Award of Best Lead Actress, Room tells the story of Joy Newsome, a 24-year-old woman who’s been held captive for seven years and whose son (played by Jacob Tremblay) was born in captivity. Trapped in a small room by their captor, Joy’s son remains unaware there’s an outside world for him to discover. A film anchored by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s incredible performances, Room is a harrowing story of the great lengths a mother will go to protect her son while providing him a world of imagination.
The Children Act (2017, dir. Richard Eyre)
There are certain films that make you question things you’d never really thought of before and whether or not there’s truly a right or wrong. The Children Act is definitely one of them. It tells the story of a judge who must decide whether or not a young man suffering from leukemia should be ordered to have a blood transfusion to save his life after he and his family refuse to accept medical treatment due to religious beliefs. The film stars Emma Thompson and Fionn Whitehead, who both deliver ground-breaking performances.
Enemy (2013, dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Enemy is a psychological thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, delving into the subconscious of a college professor who discovers he has a twin. Intrigued by this other man who looks just like him, he goes out of his way to learn more about his double’s life and uncovers layers of his own persona as he tries to come to terms with entering adulthood. It’s a film with a lot of nuance and metaphors—one that will require your undivided attention and possibly a second watch.