15 Movies for the Lonely Heart’s Club in the New Year


New Year’s Eve has become one of those holidays, alongside Valentine’s Day and Halloween, where you’re supposed to feel a little ashamed if you’re by yourself. But I think it’s important to remember that not everyone embraces these events with open arms, instead choosing to sit on the couch with their thoughts, an open bottle of wine, and a remote in hand. If that fits your description, just wanting one more night to wallow around and do nothing, then here are 15 varying movies about isolation, heartache, and the occasional happily ever after. Enjoy.

15.) Silver Linings Playbook  Everyone has a movie they can’t skip past when it’s shown on TV; mine’s Silver Linings Playbook. Everything about this genre-bending, side-splitting, introspective journey into the minds of two depressives hits you in the heart. This is David O. Russell’s best film, not just because it’s so finely crafted, but because more than any other feature he’s written or directed, the human leads actually feel flawed and knowable. Silver Linings Playbook is a love story written with the notes of separate self-help manuals, contemplating the possibility of joining forces to cure the disease of loneliness. In this case, the panacea simply works.

Where to watch: Netflix

14.) Wings of Desire – Have you seen City of Angels? Well, this is its source material. I remember watching Wings of Desire some 10 years back, utterly absorbed by the poetry of its narrative and the ambition of its visual structure. Few films understand the hovering, impressionable, literal reality shattering effects of love as much as this. We meet an angel, standing on top of buildings, watching everyday life transpire, only to fall in love with a trapeze artist. For the lead, to feel love as we know it means to forfeit immortality. Director Wim Wenders, so fluently and capably, assures us that saying yes is the right answer. It’s one of the most unforgettable films I’ve ever seen.

Where to watch: Available to rent

13.) I’ll See You in My Dreams – What a funny, observant, and heartbreaking film this one is. Blythe Danner shines as a widow, passing the days with wine and cards in her coastal community, subject to an inexcusably monotonous routine of an existence. Then she meets a man, they fall in love, and the cycle of life begins again. I’ll See You in My Dreams keeps your eyes peeled, your mind open, and pins your heart to your sleeve. This level of realism can’t be questioned.

Where to watch: Available to rent

12.) Moon – Duncan Jones’ little debut feature about a man’s three-year isolated shift for a lunar mining company is the kind of heady, wildly creative, and intimate sci-fi film that we don’t see very often. Sam Rockwell’s a powerhouse playing a double role, acting with and against his own self, trying to piece together the puzzle more than 200,000 miles away from Earth. Let the loneliness sink in.

Where to watch: Netflix

11.) About Time – When we first meet Tim, an awkward and introverted young man, he’s experiencing the kind of New Year’s Eve we all hope to avoid. Then he wakes up, shakes his hangover, and is told by his father that he can travel through time. Tim revisits the previous night, making alterations like a tailor trying to find a proper fitted suit. And as About Time goes on, it becomes a film about the things we can change and those we must simply come to terms with. Sounds like a resolution to me.

Where to watch: Available to rent

10.) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – It’s without hesitation that I call Eternal Sunshine one of the most thought-provoking and actualized depictions of lost love in American cinema. The film’s masterful in its dealing with inner struggles, wanting to literally remove the memory of a person, using the screen as a means of reiterating the necessity of pain and sorrow so that warmth can be of real value. Michel Gondry’s film is a complicated one, but so is love.

Where to watch: Netflix

9.) Lost in Translation – Sofia Coppola’s gem of a second film is told in the style of legendary Japanese auteur Yasujirō Ozu. Straightforward, rather uneventful, but incredibly impactful and self-contained. An aging movie star in a midlife crisis meets a young woman, the two share conversation, and from there they create an understanding and appreciation of renewed leases on life. Lost in Translation is most famous for its final shot, Billy Murray leaning into to Scarlett Johansson’s ear and whispering dialogue we never hear. The words are theirs, as they should be.

Where to watch: Available to rent

8.) Brief Encounter – Both comedic and dramatic, this film is about the entrances and the exits of a flowering relationship that never fully blooms. Each of the central pair are married, have families, but are stuck in spiritless relationships. So they strike up a kinship which threatens to become an affair. What makes Brief Encounter so absorbing is that it’s such a departure from the present’s constant connectivity. In the old days, keeping in touch was harder, seeing a friendly face felt warmer, and watching them go hurt that much more. The final third of this film burrows into your soul.

Where to watch: Available to rent

7.) Her If Brief Encounter is to be included as an example of face to face interactions gone awry, then Her is here to compartmentalize and reflect on the effects of constant communication. In this near future – one that seems frighteningly close on the horizon – people can share their lives and interact with systems of artificial intelligence. The voice is a powerful, manipulative tool, capable of incalculable combinations of emotions. By telling this film about connectivity and the essence of humanity, writer/director Spike Jonze shows a shockingly accurate and prescient eye for the future, as well as an ability to convey our need to be seen and felt and heard.

Where to watch: Netflix

6.) The Girl on the Bridge – You wouldn’t expect a black and white film about a fading knife thrower and a harlot to be as romantically charged as The Girl on the Bridge is through its entirety. The man throws his daggers poorly, meets the woman who sleeps with any guy who gives her a glimpse, and they become good luck charms to one another. The picture’s hypnotic in a way, sending the viewer into a trance and convincing us to act accordingly. The story’s a stretch, and we lean on tip toes to keep it in view because you can’t look away.

Where to watch: Currently unavailable

5.) The Purple Rose of Cairo – Woody Allen’s terribly underseen and underrated The Purple Rose of Cairo celebrates a love affair with cinema that jumps right off the screen and into the streets of reality. The story is paint by numbers to start. A married waitress, inattentive husband, happiness altogether absent. Then the woman visits the theater, falls in love with the titular film and its leading man, and then he leaps off the screen and into her life. Allen has a lot of fun with this high-brow idea, but there’s a lot of pain here as well, as evidenced by that sweet, somber, and wide-eyed last scene.

Where to watch: Available to rent

4.) The Legend of 1900 – I first saw this film while visiting a friend our freshman year of college. He was finishing late classes on a Friday, I was in his dorm pushing Netflix DVD’s into my laptop. And this movie, lifted by Ennio Morricone’s sweeping score, just mesmerized me. It’s approach is that of a tall tale, following the confined life of a prodigious pianist born on an ocean liner, abandoned by his parents, and raised at sea without ever setting foot on land. He’s at bay in the ship’s hull, only tempted to explore the outside world after seeing a woman’s unshakable face. In the The Legend of 1900, the whipping winds of love at first sight aren’t strong enough to push us from the nest.

Where to watch: Available to rent

3.) Up in the Air – George Clooney gives, in my opinion, the best performance of his career as professional terminator Ryan Bingham. He’s a lonely man, cold yet not calloused, preoccupied by work firing employees for companies. His apartment is empty, his little suitcase always full, and his family ties strained by distance. Then he meets a like-minded woman, opens up to her and she to him, only to realize that he set his bar of expectations too high. In that last shot Ryan says, “The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places; and one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip passing over.” He’s most comfortable in the clouds.

Where to watch: Available to rent

2.) IkiruDeemed the original It’s a Wonderful Life for rightful reason, Ikiru shares the waning and waxing moments of a middle-aged man dying from cancer, coming to terms with a life of regret, remorse, and misfortune. Akira Kurosawa, one of cinema’s Mount Rushmore figureheads, meticulously crafts this film with utter despair that transforms into boundless bundles of joy. Kurosawa made some of the art form’s most integral masterpieces over the course of his career; for my money, Ikiru is up towards the top of his long list of accomplishments.

Where to watch: Available to rent

1.) Lars and the Real Girl – I love everything about this movie. I love its daring demeanor, its prowess, its vulnerability. It takes precision and remarkable skill to tell the story of a painfully shy and introverted man who orders a life-sized love doll. She’s not there to have sex with, but is a cathartic means of company and conversation. Lars and the Real Girl will break your heart with its intense, bottled up pain. And then it’ll leave you hopeful, not just for the characters, but for the entirety of the human race and our symbiotic relationships with strangers, loved ones, and the entire world at large. Lars and the Real Girl treks through a minefield with such confidence and faith that you can’t help but follow in its footsteps.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

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