Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

Impression: Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love this film. And has likely been forced to watch it with me. I am not sure if I can properly articulate what I love so much about this one, but I will try. I’ve never been very into weddings, or any of the things that Muriel is into. But I do appreciate the feeling of wanting to define who you are without the weight of personal history and environment, the allure of being able to completely redefine yourself in a new place and wipe the slate clean. In fact, I have done it myself more times than I can count, but never as radically as Muriel does with the help of Rhonda. Rhonda is the best friend you’ve always wanted, wild, crazy, accepting of all your faults and not the least bit judgmental. The strong female friendship is the centerpiece of the story. But that plot line could have come off as somewhat cheesy and cliché. It’s that particularly Aussie movie atmosphere that lifts it: the easy mix of hilariously ridiculous intertwined with the tragically sad, the unapologetic archetypes and the raw display of the basest human emotion, completely judgmental, and at the same time completely accepting of it all as just human.  And the ABBA and the accents. Those don’t hurt either.
Facts: An awkward Australian girl comes out of her shell when she makes some selfish choices and runs away from her family and small town.
Extra: I remember going to see this for the first time in the movie theater in Florida with my dad. It was a Sunday,  first day of daylight savings time, and we forgot and showed up an hour early. I have seen is at least 10 times since.

Lion (2016)

Impression: I have a soft spot for India and all things Indian. So, the colorful street scenes and full trains, and bustling city life make me smile. But there seems to be something somewhat patronizing about having a poor kid be rescued by rich Australians, only to grow up romanticizing poverty. But it’s hard to criticize, since it’s based on a true experience of one man, and reflects his reality. The plot was compelling and well paced, and kept you rooting for little Saroo to make it through the many obstacles to safety, and then for grownup Saroo to find his family.   Myself, having a kid the same age as Saroo in the beginning of the story, possibly made me even more anxious and worried for his safety than the average viewer would have been. At times, it felt almost like a thriller with a tiny protagonist.
Facts:  True story of a 5 year old Indian boy who gets lost at a train station, survives amazing adventures in a city where he does not speak the language and eventually gets adopted in 1980s Australia.