Comfort films and TV shows to cure the freshers blues
By Joe McFadden, pipcarew and Ibiwunmi Balogun
About Time – Pip Carew:
It’s September again and many of us are entering new phases in our life, phases that might stir feelings of anxiety in the stomach. If you’re the sort of person who would rather swap those nervous butterflies for romantic ones, I have the film for you!
Richard Curtis’s About Time (2013) is the ultimate comfort film: nothing horribly upsetting happens, there’s zero gore, and Bill Nighy is the ultimate philosophising dad. About Time is about mild-mannered Tim (Domnhall Gleeson) who discovers during a terrible hangover that he can travel in time. Tim resolves to use his new superpower for “the mothership” of life goals: finding a girlfriend.
Cue the many mishaps that come with time travel, all contained in delightful British rom-com fashion. Tim meets the love of his life – Mary (Rachel McAdams) – but her number vanishes from his phone after he travels back to save an ill-fated play opening. Curtis’s tight control of the script means About Time never strays into the melodramatic or overly sentimental territory but instead maintains a neat balance of comedy and jeopardy.
About Time has an (ironically) timeless quality to it. Despite contemporary references to Kate Moss and ‘Mr Brightside’, it’s a film that depicts love as the essential source of happiness. About Time approximates the feeling of being in love as much as film can and has thus always been a great source of comfort to me. It can be stuck on during any chapter of your life and you will surely derive some wisdom from any of the characters, whether it’s about dating someone kind or that worrying about the future is “as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”
About Time is Richard Curtis’s most well-arranged, heartiest film to date. It’s the movie equivalent of a roast dinner. I would prescribe About Time to any fresher feeling homesick, the film’s overall sentiment being that (even without time travel) everything will be okay
Community – Joe McFadden:
When I started uni in September 2020, the TV show I turned to for comfort was Community. Following the antics of disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) as he’s forced to attend a community college to obtain a real Bachelor’s degree, Community centres around the group of misfits Winger befriends as they form a Spanish study group. Despite its simple premise, Community is a show like no other; it goes from a tame comedy about a group of college friends littered with pop culture references (spot the references to John Hughes film The Breakfast Club in the pilot) to a meta-commentary on sitcoms, movies, and TV itself.
Beginning with Season 1 Episode 19 ‘Contemporary American Poultry’ (a riff on Goodfellas), Community began doing ‘genre episodes’ where a specific movie or genre was parodied by the characters with hugely entertaining results. Everything from Die Hard to Spaghetti Westerns and even Ken Burns documentaries have been lovingly parodied by the study group as they indulge in every nerd’s dream (with many meta references coming from best friends Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi).
What makes Community my go-to comfort show is how it blends pop culture parody with heart and meaningful character development. At its core, the show is about bad people trying to be better. It tackles themes like ageing, fulfilment, and self-improvement in a consistently hilarious manner, showing how we’re all works-in-progress trying to find our purpose in life.
The show’s college setting also makes it very relatable to freshers who may struggle to fit in during the haze of welcome week. Community offers a positive spin on what the university experience may entail (I would love a campus-wide paintball match). I love Community because it loves movies as much as I do. Like many others, I take comfort in retreating to other worlds and Community doesn’t just portray another world, it encourages us all to find comfort in the simple pleasures that stories give us.
C’mon C’mon – Ibi Balogun:
The end of summer and a new academic year creeping in can cause a rise in anxiety. Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon (2021) is a comfort film that may help alleviate the stresses that come with joining or returning to university.
C’mon C’mon follows the story of Johnny, played by Joaquim Phoenix, a middle-aged journalist tasked with taking care of his young nephew Jesse, played by the young but extremely talented Woody Norman. This film includes healthy discussions about the future, devoid of the usual discomfort and fear that comes with thinking about one’s next steps in life.
C’mon C’mon is a refreshing spin on the coming-of-age genre that is not too literal but still has introspective potential. During the first half of the film, Jesse exudes a seemingly positive energy thanks to his quirky wit but as the narrative progresses another side of him emerges as we learn about his familial situation. This melancholic side of the film reveals the influence and significance that external factors have on children and their internal development.
Additionally, the viewer is shown authentic interviews with children and teenagers about the realities of growing up in their neighbourhoods and how they’re treated by the adults around them. These interviews result in raw and surprisingly analytical conversations about life, the future, and the human condition.
C’mon C’mon came to me at the right time as I was – and still slightly am – unsure about my future plans. This film allowed me to embrace those areas of uncertainty, and, in the process, I remembered how essential it is to actually live my life rather than worry about how to live it. I would recommend this film for those in periods of transition whether it is a physical, environmental, or even a mental change; C’mon C’mon will comfort you.
A mini-guide to Manchester cinema:
Here are some great creative spaces in Manchester to discover films, meet other film lovers, and new up-and-coming filmmakers:
Manchester Film Festival (MANIFF):
This film festival has a great variety of films of all kinds from short animations to feature-length documentaries, from a great variety of filmmakers around the world from Russia to Bolivia. The festival takes place at the beginning of March in the Odeon in the Great Northern complex in Deansgate.
Everyman Manchester St Johns:
There are Everyman cinemas across the country including Manchester. This cinema has extremely comfortable seating including sofas and blankets, there’s even an art gallery. While Everyman is on the pricier side, it does offer student rates and hosts travelling cinemas such as Bounce Cinema, an organisation that helps share the stories of young and emerging storytellers across the UK. This cinema is located between Spinningfields and Deansgate.
Home is Manchester’s hidden gem. HOME showcases a diverse range of classic and contemporary films as an independent venue for theatre and cinema. Offering student tickets and plenty of events across the calendar, HOME is a must visit for any fan of the arts. The modern glass building is easily accessible and can be found on First street in the city centre.