The fall season is in full swing as November makes way for the inevitable holiday craze that will take over once the turkey has been eaten and Black Friday shopping kicks off. Fall is a peculiar season, a time of change that can be as lively as it can be melancholic. Fall is all about reminiscing and reconsidering, especially as the year moves toward a close and our minds haven’t yet been invaded by Santa’s minions.
For all those looking to get into the fall mood, cinema can be the way to do it. Whether you’re looking for a Thanksgiving movie or a good, old-fashioned story about brown, crunchy leaves, fall and fall-related movies are ever-popular. We all know the usual suspects, from bona fide classics like When Harry Met Sally to modern hits like Knives Out. But if you’re in the mood for a more obscure film, we’ve got you covered. These three films are severely overlooked and unfairly underappreciated streaming gems that can be enjoyed throughout the year, but are especially effective during November.
Winona Ryder, Cher, and a then-10-year-old Christina Ricci star in Richard Benjamin’s coming-of-age dramedy Mermaids. The plot centers on the Flax family — Christianity-obsessed, 15-year-old Charlotte; her eccentric, irreligious mother, Rachel; and her younger half-sister, Kate. Charlotte and Rachel constantly clash, as the latter’s propensity to relocate the family after each new breakup leads to an unstable life. Upon arriving in a small town in Massachusetts, Rachel begins a relationship with Lou, the local shoe store owner, while Charlotte becomes infatuated with Joe, a 26-year-old caretaker with a mysterious past.
Quirky and slightly absurd, Mermaids is the definition of a hidden, underrated gem. The film offers a classic coming-of-age story about doubts, fears, religion, and regrets, elevated by the performances of a stellar cast, particularly Ryder, who is riveting. The film is remarkable for its unique approach to the adolescent mind; Charlotte is as zany as the mother she so resents, with her musings about Christianity and faith being both ludicrous and utterly entertaining.
Mermaids oozes fall vibes, not least because it was actually filmed in the fall. It is charming, odd, insightful, almost surreal, and strangely deceptive. The film might seem straightforward at first sight, but upon closer examination, viewers will find a deeper, more complicated message about family, maturity, and the true meaning of stability.
Mermaids is available on Max.
Fantasy is a remarkably versatile genre. However, whereas light fantasy revolves around princes, princesses, fairies, and goblins, dark fantasy features curses, specters, and, of course, monsters. The 2018 dark fantasy drama A Monster Calls is a modern masterpiece of dark fantasy about Conor, a young boy whose mother is dying from a terminal illness. Struggling to cope after moving in with his strict grandmother, Conor forms a complicated relationship with a giant, storytelling monster formed from a yew tree.
A Monster Calls is an emotionally poignant, brutal, and devastating, yet rewarding film about grief and courage. Featuring a spectacular performance from the young Lewis McDougall, the film pulls off an incredible feat, balancing mature and potentially harrowing subjects with a tender delicacy that separates it from other entries in the genre. The story is relentless and uncompromising, like a cathartic therapy session where you say things you never thought you would, cry your eyes out until they’re red and burning, and leave lighter and more relieved than you’ve felt in months. A Monster Calls is powerful and unforgettable, a mesmerizing, fantastical tale that demands much from its audience, but gives much more in return.
A Monster Calls is available on Netflix.
Some films have a distinctive sense of dread hovering above the proceedings, like the test results you’re nervous about getting or a difficult conversation you can’t avoid. Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm is one such film. Starring an ensemble cast, including Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, and Sigourney Weaver, the film follows two upper-class families seeking refuge from their lives during Thanksgiving in 1973.
The Ice Storm is a sublime and remarkably sad film about people going through the motions; they are not only frustrated with their lives, they are embarrassed by the mundaneness of their desires. Set during a turning point in American history, in a neighborhood so perfect it becomes unsettling, The Ice Storm reveals the trap of the sexual revolution of the late ’60s, which presented freedom and experimentation as the answer to a long-asked question.
Yet, no release came from indulging, leaving the characters just as hopeless and no more satisfied, as well as unwilling, or perhaps unable, to recognize that the ice storm is within and without. Despite its many satirical, sarcastic moments, The Ice Storm is bleak, chilly, and melancholic, a callback to a simpler time that never really existed. The film’s essence can be summarized by a dialogue exchange between young Mikey and his father, Jim. “I’m back,” Jim says. “You were gone?” Mikey replies. Enough said.
The Ice Storm is available on Max.
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