The awards season is officially here and has sucesfully bestowed upon us a series of wonderful movies to fall in love with and to put our absolute attention into. There are certainly a lot of stories to delve into.
From well-known controversial figures raw biopics to insightful stories about hurt individuals looking for hope , this years’ awards season has done something amazing; they have brought back a conversation around an important subject: loneliness.
In my mind, some of the most important films of this year have shared and used at their benefit a special kind of narrative in which their authors have profoundly tried to depict intimate portraits of loneliness surrounding their main characters while shining a light on the importance of this very representation on films.
Tonya Harding, the infamous ice skater involved on the Nancy Kerrigan fiasco, is perfectly depicted as a woman that have faced loneliness her entire life in I, Tonya. Rejected by her mom, her dad and her husband, Tonya’s only place where she felt she belonged was on the ice rink. A place where she embraced the loneliness around her making her strong whilst giving her a sense of purpose.
From the very first frame, we see her sitting alone in her kitchen telling her story. In fact, every single frame in this movie positions her always far from everyone, isolated, facing reality on her own. Whereas she is skating and trying to do a triple axel or fighting with her husband, she’s always framed alone.
Tonya Harding’s story is not easy to digest and the movie doesn’t try to sugarcoat it. She’s depicted as a flawed human being that have been stripped from her truth and her voice since she was a little girl. I, Tonya‘s very purpose is to give Tonya Harding back the control of her narrative, of her own story, but more importantly, this movie is trying to give back her voice, so she can confront loneliness knowing she has the power to overcome it.
Lady Bird`s particular way to portray loneliness, on the other hand, is what I found more compelling about this Greta Gerwig’s movie. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is the typical misunderstood teenager looking for the meaning of life in the middle of her adolescence. However, there’s a special thing in the ways she confronts reality.
First, and foremost, she doesn’t like to be called by her given name. That’s the way she reacts and the perfect excuse to ostracize herself from her family and from the little town she’s from: Sacramento. She’s not a victim of abandonment, on the contrary, she embraces loneliness as way to define her coming of age.
Along the movie we get to see her dating constantly, meeting new friends, losing old ones and hanging out with her family all the time. Physically, she’s never alone, but that’s the point. She doesn’t need to be around people to feel good. Loneliness is one of the features that defines her, not the relationships she’s been making all along.
She wants to be alone as much as she wants to be heard. She looks constantly for new ways to contradict herself and her family in order to seek for validation. Her loneliness is not a disadvantage, it’s, instead, the crystal with which she uses to see through her reality. When Lady Bird feels alone is when her best self appears to make all the responsible decisions she needs to make.
In fact, the scenes where she is framed alone are certainly the director’s way to tell us that some big decision is coming our way. Whereas she’s framed between big houses, inside a moving vehicle or at edge at her bed Lady Bird is filled with big intimate and lonely moments that helps to define our main character. No wonder the main poster of the film puts Lady Bird alone and facing at the future.
Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino’s film, is also very much framed in loneliness. This movie, just as Lady Bird, uses this particular subject to depict an unique way to understand the coming of ageof a character, but in a different light. Whereas Lady Bird uses loneliness to define herself, Timothée Chalamet’s* Elio runs constantly away from it.
Elio too is a misunderstood young individual who’s looking for the meaning of life whilst dealing with the insecurities and problems any teenager has to live with. What’s really striking about his story in this movie is the way he understands loneliness. For him, being alone also means to be hopeless and isolated from reality. He sees himslef alone because he doesn’t understand what’s happening with him.
We see this with the way he treats Marzia, one of her friends that happens to have a big crush on him, he only looks for her when he feels lonely, but when Oliver appears in his life, he immediately dismiss her.
What’s really beautiful about this movie is that this type of attitude is not portrayed as something that comes from a place of malice but from insecurities and confusion. Elio feels like his walking in circles, feeling lonely and different. He doesn’t feel like a normal teenager. Oliver’s importance in his life gives him a meaning and something to aspire to.
To Elio, loneliness is not something to be reckoned with, because he links this feeling with confusion. But at the same way, he aknowledges it as an important part of his growth. In that way, loneliness is portrayed beautifully in this movie as one of the means behind transformation.
There’s no better way to portray this argument than the final scene of the movie (SPOILERS) when Elio sits alone facing the fire and feeling lonely. Sure, he’s just realizing that the guy he fell in love with is no longer in his life, but he doesn’t feel confused anymore, because Oliver transformed his insecurities into wonderful memories together (END OF SPOILER). Elio doesn’t feel bad when he’s lonely anymore, because he learned that he doesn’t need an outside validation to feel comfortable with himself.
These are only a handful of movies that you possibly will be hearing about more on the upcoming awards season. The have a lot to be celebrated for, but I think that their achievements goes beyond technical praises.
The way they captivate intimate portraits of loneliness should be recognized as something important and relevant. Something that goes beyond the incredible story that happened in front of our eyes. To depict loneliness in a positive light is a form of art on itself.
*Fun fact: Timothée Chalamet appears in both Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird.