Certain movies define the way you grow up. They enter you, and mold every forthcoming thought and action into a cinematic manifestation of expression. You start understanding life, love, loss and everything in between through certain characters, through their conflicts, loneliness and their little stories. Not all of them belong to the conventional mainstream cinema. In fact, it’s the relative independence of these films that allow them to break the fourth wall and make our conscience their quirky homes. For Indian cinema enthusiasts, before the era of Netflix and other legal platforms, it’s the memories and forced intimacy of watching these Hollywood indie films on the dim laptop screen after ‘downloading’ them off the internet after hearing about them at Sundance Film Festival and its likes.
Here are five such Hollywood indies – films that you wish you watched on the big screen. Most of them, though, can still be procured:
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012)
“We accept the love we think we deserve” – a line forever embedded into the psyche of the modern millennial. A young, empathetic professor tells this to his clinically depressed student Charlie (Logan Lerman), who in turn tells it to the love of his life, senior manic pixie Sam (Emma Watson) towards the end. In between, Charlie’s high-school life in a new town unfolds as part of the eclectic trio of Sam and her gay brother, as they navigate the highs, lows and memories of small-town America, desperate to stay rooted and get out at the same time. Stephen Chbosky’s perceptive and well-acted adaptation made the pages of a novel come alive like rarely seen before.
LIKE CRAZY (2011)
Drake Doremus’ charming indie, starring the late Anton Yelchin as an American artist having a long-distance relationship with British student Felicity Jones, captured the dizzy beginnings and choppy middles of a companionship fraught with distance, longing and trust issues. The soundtrack is beautiful, as is the unrehearsed unscripted chemistry between the two leads – captured by a handheld camera. First love has never been captured in such a natural, free-flowing way.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013)
Young actor Miles Teller has specialized in playing characters trapped in abusive equations – with his teacher (Whiplash), and with himself, in this poignant coming-of-age film based on Tim Sharp’s novel. He plays a cocky, arrogant borderline alcoholic losing control of his teenage years, while Shailene Woodley plays the introvert-ish misfit who attempts to bring him back on track. Teller does the spiraling act better than most, and one can almost believe his antics given that his escapist ex-girlfriend is played by the multi-talented Brie Larson. A heartfelt, intense film that hits all the right emotional spots.
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (2015)
Another hipster-ish, quirky and Sundance-ish high-school movie: about best friends Greg and Earl, who’re aspiring filmmakers that make parodies of famous films, and their strange friendship with the ‘new’ girl, Rachel, who begins to die of cancer soon after. Extremely innovative, colourful and packed with adolescent emotions and cheesy words, this film goes from laugh-riot to tear-jerker and back in a single scene – and is powered by the film’s unrequited centerpiece equation between Greg (Thomas Mann) and Rachel (Olivia Cooke).
Richard Ayode’s British comedy is a visceral, verbose and superbly insightful teenage 1980s love story revolving around an angsty, confused boy (Craig Roberts) and the girl (Yasmin Paige) he is seeing. Torn between the reality of his breaking family in his bleak hometown and the emotional fallout of her dying father, the unorthodox narrative and funny voiceover lends this indie the kind of gravitas that keep the viewers both hooked and uproarious in their reactions.
In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007), Sing Street (2016), 50/50 (2011), Monsters (2010)