Why Are So Many Big Current Movies So Depressing?

Why Are So Many Big Current Movies So Depressing?
Share this

The current movies that are up for award consideration this year are not what I would have expected from a year like 2020. This past year has been a train wreck crashing into a dumpster fire for many of us.

The pandemic and subsequent production shut down caused months of unemployment and financial instability.  The entire country has been on stress overload trying to navigate home-schooling, remote work, and now getting a vaccination.  It’s been an incredibly trying year.

So you’d think the current crop of films up for award nominations would contain more uplifting films.  The pile of screeners and streaming links I have are mostly for movies that are anything but cheerful.  It’s a far cry from the uplifting depression-era musicals and comedies that flooded theaters in the 1930s.

This year’s offerings include some fine films containing excellent performances.  However, I wouldn’t advise watching most of them if you’re feeling anxious or depressed.  It would have been very trying to work on some of those productions in the best of times.

Here’s my take on a few of the films I’ve watched so far:

  • The Father

Anthony Hopkins plays an older man descending into dementia in this touching drama directed by Florian Zeller.  Hopkins’ nuanced performance is outstanding, and he’ll almost certainly receive an Oscar nomination.  Even if you’ve never had a family member who’s suffered from Alzheimer’s, you’ll be able to relate to his grown daughter’s pain.  But Alzheimer’s is not a happy subject, and The Father is a heavy, depressing film to watch.

  • Da 5 Bloods

This film is probably director Spike Lee’s best work.  Five Viet Nam veterans reunite in that country decades later.  One of them, played by Delroy Lindo, has a PTSD – triggered meltdown, and their reunion goes off the rails.  There are ample plot twists, and Da 5 Bloods is an excellent film worth watching.  Just don’t expect to be cheered up by it.

  • News of the World

This film starring Tom Hanks and directed by Paul Greengrass is the tale of a Civil War veteran who finds himself tasked with delivering a young girl, played by Helena Zengel, to her aunt and uncle.  Of course, the journey doesn’t go smoothly.  Hanks and Zengel give terrific performances, and I liked this movie a lot.  However, I wouldn’t call it an upbeat film.

  • Nomadland

This film, directed by Chloe Zhao, stars Frances McDormand as a modern-day nomad who lost everything during the great recession and now lives a nomadic life in her van.  Some of the actors in this film are real-life nomads, and McDormand gives a powerful performance.  But the movie is a sad commentary about those left behind in a brutal economy.  It’s a film worth seeing, but I needed to watch a sitcom afterward.

  • The Prom

Finally, we have a musical to watch amid all the depressing dramas.   It’s hardly the best musical of all time, but this genial film directed by Ryan Murphy is entertaining and fun.  Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Kerry Washington all give solid performances, and there’s plenty of singing and dancing.  It kept me entertained and reminded me of why we need more movies like this in tough times.

So that’s my take on a few of the films I’ve seen this year.  Apparently, even the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are apathetic about this year's offerings.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to sit through many more of the current movies. I don’t really want to see movies about people whose souls are being crushed by tyrants, health crises, or an unjust society.  We’ve lived through enough of that this past year.  Bring on the joy and laughter.





Share this