Movies to Get Through a Breakup – Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun

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Alright. You’ve read the headline. You get what’s happening here: I went through a breakup; I watch a lot of movies; now, I’m looking back and attempting to confer upon them some sort of rhyme and reason to distinguish the ones that helped from the ones that hurt and all that jazz. Movies are a super cool window into universal experience, and there’s a lot that they can do in helping you take steps towards feeling better. But even the most hardcore cinephile will tell you that there are limits to the healing powers of movies. I found that a lot of the time, the best medicine ended up being a disconnected array of Simpsons, 30 Rock or Veep clips. However, I also know that my taste is pretty eccentric by most standards. After all, most people aren’t particularly interested in Italian exploitation or ’20s silent comedy on their best days. These recommendations are primarily thematic — I hope I can suggest some sort of direction, even if I can’t precisely program your bed rotting film festival. 
The Rom-dram
This is pretty easy: Don’t watch a rom-com. At least from my experience, the juxtaposition of the genre’s carefree fantasy with your momentarily brutal reality turns the whole experience sour. It can be really exciting to begin getting back into that nervous-romantic headspace, but you’re also going to need to take some time to be a little bit cynical, shed a tear and get caught up in the sadness of it all. Romantic dramas (rom-drams), even the ones with happy endings, rarely let you forget that there aren’t really right choices when it comes to romance — or to the extent that there are, they’re emotionally exacting. For my part, I watched last year’s Past Lives, a meditation on receding possibilities and “the one that got away,” filtered through the lens of an immigration story. It fits a nice mold: Healthy people in healthy relationships who nonetheless can’t shake every pesky emotion that they feel. For a slightly more toxic (if also counterintuitively optimistic) alternative, I’d throw out Asako I & II, a brilliant love triangle, body-double hypothetical that reminds us how easy it is to make mistakes, and then continue making mistakes.
For those who really want to challenge themselves or let it all out, try watching Brief Encounter or The Worst Person in the World. Both are incredibly watchable films that play with the idea of unambiguous domestic love that still ends up supplanted by exhilarating emotional affairs. Post-breakup, recalculating the tradeoff between stable happiness and anxious excitement can be a difficult task, so see if one of the above movies can give you something of an answer. Also, no matter what you do, do not watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Nobody deserves that level of self-imposed emotional devastation. 
Make a New Memory
If you are like me, you probably watched a lot of movies with your ex-partner: You probably formed some really wonderful memories, and you might even have a sense of joint-custody extending over those shared favorites. Depending on how things ended, the memories might feel pretty bitter, and even in the best cases, you don’t really get to have that sense of mutual belonging over a movie anymore. But that doesn’t mean you have to change your film taste or forget a favorite. If a movie reminds you of an ex, make it remind you of something else: Find a way to watch a movie that’s going to supplant those previous memories of watching it; if it’s playing at a local repertory theater, go to a screening; get a group of friends together and watch it as a drinking game; rewatch it alone and write a review of it for The Sun. It won’t always be entirely effective. I rewatched Basic Instinct with friends, and while it didn’t supplant those earlier memories, it certainly lives with them now. Try not to lose bits of your taste and identity simply because those bits were held up by a foundation that isn’t there anymore. Those movies can still represent you — you just have to find a way to figure out how they’re going to do that now. 
Challenge Yourself
As important as cinema is as an escapist medium, especially when you’re in a situation where you are trying to escape some difficult emotions, there also exists a whole world of cinema that asks you either not to escape or pursues escapism not through constant attention-grabbing engagement, but through meditation, obfuscation and, occasionally, boredom. Being newly single can be the best time to challenge yourself with a film that might be a bit more difficult in one way or another. After all, it’s a challenge to convince anyone else to watch an overlong, deliberately boring or unfollowable movie with you. There’s a lot to be gained, first and foremost in taking on a project that, while not too difficult or draining, will require just enough of a commitment to provoke a sense of accomplishment. You also might find yourself more able to connect with some fundamentally lonely films — like the slow cinema masterpiece Goodbye, Dragon Inn — in a way that’s fortunately more difficult when you aren’t feeling lonely. 
There’s a lot of time after a breakup when you want to scream-cry and let everything escape in a burst of sadness and rage, and there’s also a lot of time that feels just a little bit emptier than it used to be. Watch a rom-dram or try some exposure therapy with a shared favorite for those big emotions, but the best salve for the quieter ones isn’t going to come in the form of a big musical cue or impassioned profession of love, but in long dreary segments of confused neon cityscapes or muddy, sepia farmlands. There are so many wonderful places to start, but I’d recommend picking a film or two from Tsai Ming-Liang, Claire Denis, Hong Sangsoo, Wong Kar-Wai or David Lynch — many of these might technically double as romantic dramas as well. 
Press Rewind
What was your favorite movie the day before you met your now ex-partner? What didn’t you watch during your entire relationship that you still have fond memories of? It’s never good to retreat too far into a past self: Besides having far less respect for the taste of my 18-year-old counterpart, mental regression can only progress you so far in getting over a breakup. But there is a role for those old favorites, especially if you’ve been in a relationship long enough to have seen yourself substantially transform with and around your ex. It’s important to remind yourself of — and actually internalize — the fact that you were a living, breathing, functioning single person for most of your life. It was during that time that you might have first had your brain chemistry reconfigured by Wes Anderson, or been unable to conceive of anything more exhilarating than a John Wick movie or even that you had the slightly awkward experience of inviting all your friends to watch Call Me by Your Name and being the only one in the group who was messy crying at the end. Whatever it is for you, you shouldn’t want to regress to that person crystalized in the amber of those films, but make sure to remind yourself that they existed. It can be hard to recapture the emotional footprint of a former you, and rewatching a movie or two can go a long way. 
Max Fattal is a Junior in the School of Industrial Labor Relations. They can be reached at [email protected]

Not every film can be enjoyed in a single evening. As you get into cinephilia, downloading Letterboxd and looking at their Top 250 (or perhaps those of Sight and Sound or AFI), you may come across those select few movies with runtimes that look like mistakes: Jesus Christ, how many hours even is 317 minutes?
Laura Poitras’ 2006 film about life for Iraqis during the Iraq War got her an Academy Award nomination for best documentary — and it also got her a place on a US government watch list. She was marked as a highest-level national security threat, and detained and interrogated at the airport multiple times.

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