Ten Films About Isolation, Confinement and Loneliness You Can Stream Right Now
While you're cooped up at home, you can watch films about being isolated on the moon, trying to escape a coffin and plunging into delirium in a haunted hotel.
April 02, 2020
When COVID-19 first started making an impact around the globe, the pandemic felt eerily familiar to movie buffs, all thanks to decades of films about contagions and outbreaks. Now, the coronavirus has forced much of the world to retreat indoors, cancel all plans for the foreseeable future and practise social-distancing — and, via a whole heap of flicks about isolation, getting stuck inside and being trapped in one location, cinema has plenty of tales that feel overwhelmingly relevant.
For years, we've all been heading to cinemas to see movies about folks stranded in space, renting DVDs about kids left home alone and adding features about sisters confined to their house to our streaming queues. Unsurprisingly, these types of films seem like perfect viewing material at this very moment. As always, it's important to remember that they're only fiction — and that whiling away your days inside won't really make Jack a dull boy — but if you're looking to watch a few movies about being cooped up while you're cooped up, here are ten that you can stream right now.
If you're looking for new hobby ideas while you're stuck in one spot, Moon's Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has more than a couple of suggestions. During his three-year stint living solo in a mining base on the far side of earth's only natural satellite, he has worked up a regular exercise routine, watched plenty of old sitcoms and whittled a miniature village out of wood. But, as this stellar sci-fi film explores, Sam's attention soon gets diverted elsewhere. Two weeks before he's due to be sent home, he crashes his lunar rover — and nothing is quite the same again. The debut feature by Duncan Jones (the director of Source Code, Warcraft: The Beginning and Mute, and also David Bowie's son), Moon proves smart, sharp, contemplative and engaging as it charts a distinctive scenario. And, while it was made nearly a decade before Rockwell won a Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, this remains his absolute best performance.
There are few places on the planet as isolated as Antarctica, the setting for not one, not two, but three versions of The Thing. And, with zero offence meant to 1951's The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter's 1982 remake is the best of the bunch (no, the recent 2011 film with Joel Edgerton and Mary Elizabeth Winstead doesn't come close to beating it). All three draw upon John W. Campbell Jr's 1938 novella Who Goes There?; however Carpenter's sci-fi/horror classic finds the perfect mix of action thrills, unnerving frights and existential dread. It also benefits from a perfectly cast Kurt Russell leading the charge. The setup: in an American research station at the globe's southern-most point, a parasitic alien life-form starts not only attacking the residents, but taking over their bodies first.
The Thing is available to stream on Foxtel Now.
While many movies about confinement and solitude toy with horror and sci-fi scenarios, Deniz Gamze Ergüven's Mustang instead ponders the grim reality of life for women in conservative Turkey. Set in a remote village, the Oscar-nominated film steps into the teenage existence of five orphaned sisters (Güneş Şensoy, Doğa Doğuşlu, Elit İşcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu and İlayda Akdoğan), who take a trip to the beach with some boys from school. Upon returning home, the quintet are forbidden from leaving the house by their horrified uncle. When the sisters start rebelling against their isolation, their grandmother decides to start marrying them off. While The Virgin Suicides might instantly spring to mind, Ergüven's debut feature is marked by its cultural specificity and its spirited tone — and this account of female empowerment and camaraderie has much to say about the expectations placed upon girls in patriarchal societies.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
In Where the Wild Things Are, Max (Max Records) doesn't need to be trapped in one place to feel lonely. His parents are divorced and his sister barely pays him any attention, so the eight-year-old spends more time by himself — and dressed in his favourite wolf costume, too — than with anyone else. After a fight with his mother (Catherine Keener) about her new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo), Max runs away. And, as anyone who read and re-read the book of the same name when they were a kid will know, he soon finds himself on an island inhabited by beasts known as Wild Things. Brought to the screen with imaginative visuals, excellent effects and a rich vein of thoughtfulness, the result is a moving and melancholy delight that contemplates being alone on multiple levels. Director Spike Jonze has helmed plenty of gems, including Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Her and a heap of Beastie Boys videos, but this is his most tender and heartfelt work by far.
Where The Wild Things Are is available to stream on Netflix.
JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES
Unfurling in real time across more than three hours, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles charts the highlights of three days in the life of its titular character (Delphine Seyrig). At first, 'highlights' might seem like an overstatement, with Jeanne's housebound routine revolving around cooking, cleaning her house, taking care of her son and — in order to earn money to pay the bills — sleeping with men for money. As the time passes, however, Belgian writer/director Chantal Akerman not only examines the ins and outs of Jeanne's daily existence with meticulous precision, but uses one single mother's time in her home to lay bare the minutiae of domesticity. Both when it first released in 1975 and still today, Jeanne Dielman is unquestionably experimental; however it's also unshakeably brilliant at immersing viewers in its eponymous figure's reality.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles is available to stream on Kanopy.
Stephen King famously hated it. The Simpsons parodied it. Last year, cinemas welcomed its long-awaited sequel. For four decades now, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining has cast an enormous shadow over popular culture — as you'd expect of one of the greatest films ever made. Whether you're watching it for the first time or the hundredth, this horror masterpiece is never less than nerve-rattling. Indeed, that's the case from the moment its iconic opening scene, with its windy drive through the Rocky Mountains and its ominous theme music, initially creeps across the screen. As the Overlook Hotel's new winter caretaker Jack Torrance, Jack Nicholson puts in an exceptional performance as a man plunging into unhinged delirium in his isolated (and haunted) new surroundings, while both Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd also make an imprint as Torrance's wife and son.
Before he became Deadpool's merc with a mouth, but after he was one of the titular figures in 90s sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place (hint: he wasn't the pizza place), Ryan Reynolds endured an incredibly tense stint in a coffin. In the economical and supremely effective Buried, he plays Paul, an American civilian working in Iraq who awakens one day to find himself stuck in a casket. Said coffin is already six feet under when Paul discovers his unfortunate predicament. He's desperate to escape; however he only has a lighter and a mobile phone on hand. Dedicating its concise 95-minute running time to its trapped protagonist's efforts to extricate himself from the situation, Buried serves up Hitchcock-level thrills, smarts and style with its one-location setup. And, while his character obviously feels otherwise, Reynolds adapts to the scenario by dishing up one of his most memorable performances.
Buried is available to stream on Stan.
If you only see one movie featuring Patrick Stewart as a fascist, heavy metal club owner, make it Jeremy Saulnier's follow-up to the criminally under-seen Blue Ruin. The actor also known as Jean-Luc Picard and Professor Xavier will send chills down your spine — but there's a just as impressive bunch of actors trying to fend him off. As the title suggests, the bulk of Green Room takes place backstage. After punk band The Ain't Rights (Anton Yelchin, Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat, A Prayer Before Dawn's Joe Cole and Emma's Callum Turner) stumble across something they shouldn't have, they become trapped behind the scenes as the locals endeavour to make sure they don't talk. Prepare to feel on edge as you watch this violent, claustrophobic and all-round excellent thriller — and prepare to appreciate Yelchin's many talents for one of the last times as well.
Green Room is available to stream on SBS On Demand.
At some point in the next year or so, it's likely that a brand new Home Alone movie will be demanding your attention. Yes, the 90s classic is getting remade — by Disney+, and with Jojo Rabbit's Archie Yates, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's Ellie Kemper and Catastrophe's Rob Delaney among the cast. But the Mouse House's streaming platform is already serving up classic Home Alone delights, with the 1990 original, 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost In New York and 1997's Home Alone 3 all currently available. Naturally, the first flick is the one that not only calls everyone's names each Christmas, but whenever you find yourself sitting in your house solo (i.e. quite often in today's COVID-19 times). Home Alone was the highest-grossing live-action comedy at the US box office for more than two decades for a very good reason, after all. Watch as Macaulay Culkin puts in a star-making performance, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern play bumbling burglars, and plenty of inventive booby traps get in the way.
Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York and Home Alone 3 are all available to stream on Disney+.
I AM MOTHER
Sci-fi thriller I Am Mother might seem familiar, story-wise; however this Australian-made standout definitely finds its own niche. Led by certain future star Clara Rugaard — who channels shades of science-fiction cinema's best leading ladies, such as Alien's Sigourney Weaver and The Terminator's Linda Hamilton — writer/director Grant Sputore's movie introduces viewers to a girl who has been raised in a high-tech underground bunker by a supremely intelligent robot she calls Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne). For years following the decimation of the human race, the pair have only had each other for company. Then, unexpectedly, a stranger (Hilary Swank) arrives asking for help. The rest is best discovered by watching, with an already bleak and twisty movie delving further into its dystopian premise.
I Am Mother is available to stream on Netflix.
To find out more about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and how to protect yourself, head to the Australian Government Department of Health's website.
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