Netflix & Change Your Life
Films to motivate and inspire for 2020
By Meg Weichman | Dec. 21, 2019
Now, we’re not saying you need to make a New Year’s resolution. Any kind of growth or personal change should not be based on something as arbitrary as calendar date. Yet as clichéd as it’s become, the end of the year is naturally a good time for some thoughtful introspection and reflection as you look back on the past and look forward to the future. Even better, these long, dark post-holiday nights are the perfect time to sit back, relax, and catch up on some great films from the past year you might have missed.
Need some inspiration? We’ve compiled a selection of recent films, both documentary and narrative, with inspiring messages — like getting healthier or pursuing your passion — to motivate you and give you some food for thought as you gear up to take on 2020.
Over 11,000 hours of audio and hundreds of hours of never-before-seen NASA footage has been beautifully and painstakingly restored to tell the mesmerizing story of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first lunar mission. With staggering footage from inside both the mission and mission control that is skillfully edited together, you’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of this heart-pounding, wondrous adventure. This triumphant moment of human achievement reminds us just what we are capable when we work together toward a goal. I mean, we went to the moon. THE MOON. This film gives you hope of the purest and most magnificent kind. And if that that isn’t the right tone to start your off with, I don’t know what is.
Streaming on Hulu
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
In this captivating personal documentary, two big city dreamers and their cherished dog (yes, this sweet canine is a huge bonus) leave behind their successful careers for a decidedly different change of pace. They buy some land, hoping to use traditional methods to restore a damaged ecosystem and start an organic farm. It’s a long, arduous, and sometimes heartbreaking journey filled with unforgettable characters (specifically, the greatest love story of 2019: Emma the pig and Greasy the rooster) to become the thriving Apricot Lane Farms, but the payoff is deeply rewarding. And the film’s messages are multifold, from finding the courage to take a career risk and pursue your passion as well as thoughtfully examining issues of the environment and our relationship to our food and where it comes from, it gives you so much consider — and in an exceedingly entertaining way.
Streaming on Hulu
BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON
Brittany is in a similar boat many people will be at the beginning of the year. Brittany (a phenomenal Jillian Bell, in a role of equal comedic and dramatic heft) wants to make change and get into shape. And so like those of you here who have taken the plunge and signed up for this spring’s Bayshore Marathon, Brittany decides she’s going to train for and run the New York City Marathon. And so she begins an emotional, hilarious, and heartfelt journey that begins with a single run around the block in this rousing crowd-pleaser. But for as funny and fresh as the film is, what makes Brittany’s incredibly inspiring story so winning is that it’s not really about a physical transformation but something much more meaningful.
Streaming on Amazon Prime
So at first glance Elisabeth Moss’ (The Handmaid’s Tale) Becky, a drug-addicted, and often repulsively-behaved, punk rocker is portrayed to such an extreme that she is perhaps not the most relatable character, yet at the same time, this challenging and shattering portrait certainly applies a lens to our own self-destructive behaviors and asks what it might take to make it out clean to the other side. Intense, epic, and with one of the rawest performances of the year courtesy of Moss, Her Smell also features one of the most powerful and heartbreakingly beautiful moments of any film this year: a now-sober Becky sitting down a piano to play a stripped-down cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” at her young daughter’s request. It’s poignant and aching and unforgettable and reminds us just how delicate a process transformation can be.
Streaming on Kanopy
If you’re looking for absolute and total inspiration, Maiden has it in spades. An edge-of-your-seat journey of sheer determination, it follows Tracy Edwards and her quest to assemble the first all-female sailing crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. Facing ridicule from the press, hostility and sexism from pretty much every angle, and sponsors worried they would literally be attaching their name to a sinking ship, Edwards was able to secure funding and enter the race. But from there the adventure was only beginning, as archival footage and interviews with Edwards and crewmates take you inside the thrilling race. What makes Maiden so special, though, is that while it will make you emotional in all the ways you expect, it also — especially for women — carries a more unexpected weight that hits you hard.
Rent or Buy Wherever You Stream
So it’s almost glib to apply a New Year’s resolution theme to this deeply personal cinematic work of art based on director Joanna Hogg’s own experiences, but at the same time, this romantic drama will deeply resonate with those who have ever been in or are experiencing a toxic relationship. It stars Honor Swinton Byrne (daughter of actress Tilda Swinton’s; Tilda also plays her mother) as an ambitious film student who finds herself captivated by a charming but totally bad-news older man and shows how their relationship causes her to lose her artistic voice. Not super mainstream, this romantic drama can be a frustrating watch as this woman with so much going for her continues to stay with this jerk. But that it can make you so uncomfortable also speaks to its power and demonstrates how authentic and real and honest it is. Sometimes it can take seeing a bad relationship from the outside to see that, if you don’t want a character to put up with it, why would you?
Streaming on Amazon Prime