Wednesday 25 April 2018

'Tis the season for inspirational films with feelgood messages

Home truths: Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone
Home truths: Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone
The Holiday
Jack Frost
It's A Wonderful Life

Abi Jackson

Heart-warming movies are a Christmas highlight - and they can teach us a lot. Our critic picks five plots with wellbeing lessons for modern lives

1 HOME ALONE (1990)

Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister's family drive him mad - and vice versa. But they soon miss each other when the family jet off on their Christmas holiday, with Kevin home alone, hundreds of miles away. Cue some very guilty, panicking parents. And a schoolboy forced to fend for himself and defend the family home from nasty burglars.


On the surface, the lessons here seem clear - Christmas is all about family, right? But that might not apply to everybody. With mindfulness all the rage right now, perhaps it would be more useful to look at the film's message a little differently - it's so easy to get caught up in the stress and chaos, to be constantly distracted and so overwhelmed that we lose touch with what's really important. We could all benefit from slowing down a little, reconnecting with the moment and relearning how to be truly present.

2 ELF (2003)

More than twice the size of the other elves, Buddy causes mayhem in the North Pole, and heads to New York to find his real dad. More chaos ensues though, as the calamity-prone outsider continues to get things wrong, much to the frustration of his strait-laced father. But in the end of course, Buddy's boundless enthusiasm and positivity help save the day, and brighten the lives of those around him.


We're all different - and that's OK. In fact, it's great, because your quirks are what make you you, and ultimately what other people will love you for. So don't beat yourself up if your strengths aren't the same as others' or if you don't always 'fit in'. Having a good heart and positive outlook are what matters most, so stop comparing, learn to accept yourself and let 'you' shine.

3 JACK FROST (1998)

Schoolboy Charlie is devastated when his dad Jack is killed suddenly in a road accident. Adding to the heartache is the fact Jack had been so sidetracked by his dreams of making it as a musician that he hadn't always been there for Charlie, or spent enough time doing important things with him. Fortunately for the Frost family, Jack magically comes back to life the following Christmas - in the form of a snowman - and gets the chance to put things right.


In movies, anything can happen, including coming back from the dead as a person made of snowflakes. These things are trickier to pull off in real life - but you can still create your own second chances. If there's something you really want to do or say, which is really important to you, ask yourself what's really stopping you and why you keep putting it off.


Facing financial crisis, family man George Bailey becomes suicidal and heads to a bridge on Christmas Eve, overwhelmed with despair and shame. Clarence is sent down from heaven with the task of saving George, in order to earn his angel wings, and succeeds in changing the desperate businessman's mind by showing him how things might have turned out for his loved ones had he never been born, in a poignant reminder that his worth and value extend far, far beyond his current financial woes.


It may be more than half a century since this movie was made, but its message is even more relevant today. Suicide is among the biggest killers of young men in Ireland, and rates of male depression are reported to be on the rise. Awareness is vital, as is the importance of reducing stigma around mental health, improving access to support, and ensuring we all do our bit to encourage men to talk about their worries and ask for help.

5 THE HOLIDAY (2006)

LA hotshot Amanda and British journalist Iris both have relationship problems - and find their lives transformed when they swap homes for the Christmas holidays. Amanda realises she needs to relax, stop putting so much pressure on herself, opening her up to meeting a man she actually connects with. Iris finally decides to give up on Jasper, who's been taking advantage of the fact Iris has adored him for years, and lets herself fall in love with a man worthy of her affection.


There's a fantastic exchange in The Holiday, where ageing film director Arthur says to Iris: "Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend." And Iris responds: "You're so right. You're supposed to be the leading lady of your own life." It's a lightening bolt moment for Iris - and something we should all realise. But becoming the 'leading lady in our own lives' means we have to be honest with ourselves, and take responsibility for the part we play in whatever rut we're stuck in.

Irish Independent

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