Movies to watch

Frequent travellers have noticed an odd phenomenon. Sad movies are more able to provoke tears if watched on a flight.

Physical reasons, such as lower cabin air pressure and saltier food, have been put forward to explain why sad scenes seem sadder inside a cabin, but the most important factor must be emotional. We all feel more vulnerable and less in control when confined.

Home recovery must feel like an endless flight. For the sake of mental health, the feeling of fragility must be taken into account when making a film playlist. Obviously, that rules out films in which pandemics are a plot device, nor anything that rides on doom. Picking the wrong comedy is worse than picking no comedy at all because the failure to connect might make you feel worse.

With that in mind, here is a list of films that sneak up on you - even if you are rewatching it.

THE MARTIAN (PG13)

141 minutes, 2015, Netflix

GRAVITY (PG13)

87 minutes, 2013, HBO Go

Talk about being trapped. Both of these space survival dramas deal with astronauts, marooned far from home, with resources running out.

Of the two, The Martian, starring Matt Damon as the botanist stuck on the red planet, is the sunnier choice as it shows humanity pulling together to stage a rescue.

Gravity, on the other hand, offers unrelenting tension. Sandra Bullock's lone survivor, stuck in a tin can high above the Earth, must adapt and improvise, cut off from national agencies. Those in home quarantine can sympathise.

SCHOOL OF ROCK (PG)

109 minutes, 2003, Netflix

When in a fragile state, such as during home recovery, the wrong comedy might make you feel even more estranged from humanity.

That is not likely to happen with this classic. Jack Black's Dewey Finn is a selfish but lovable slob and rock nerd who scams his way into a teaching job, then fools the students and faculty into making his rock band dreams come true.

Too many Hollywood comedies feel driven by hate - hate for dumb bosses, dumb neighbours, dumb organisations or even a dumb world - with the clever, cynical main character coming out on top. There is no hate here, just a sincere love for its main topic, rock music, as well as perfect casting for its lead role of teacher seeking a short cut to the top of the rock 'n' roll heap.

37 SECONDS (R21)

115 minutes, 2020, Netflix

Aspiring manga artist Yuma is great at drawing stories drawn from real life. But as one editor tells her, she is unhirable because her work betrays a sexual naivete.

The wheelchair-using Yuma, as played by Mei Kayama, an actress with cerebral palsy, sets out to correct the gap in her resume by plunging into online match-ups and the peculiarly Japanese institution of compensated dating.

Viewers will cringe, laugh and experience a painfully honest and inspiring look at the life of a woman with a disability desperately seeking a connection.

LION (PG)

118 minutes, 2016, Netflix and also available for streaming at The Projector Plus (theprojector.sg, $8)

If you can handle something more harrowing, this biopic tracks the true story of a five-year-old Indian street child, adopted by an Australian couple, searching for his roots.

Saroo (played as an adult by Dev Patel) has only a few clues about his origins and a subcontinent to search. When other films would have taken the point of view of Saroo and that of his adoptive parents - therefore making it more relatable to Western audiences - this film follows only Saroo and his urge to reconnect with his Indian history, shown to be filled with love, despite its brutal poverty.

This is a survival story that spans 25 years, covering loss and tragedy, followed by hope and redemption.

CAPERNAUM (NC16)

123 minutes, 2018, streaming at The Projector Plus (theprojector.sg, $6)

A story about a child from a poor family making his way on his own through a hostile world might seem an odd choice for home recovery viewing, but this Lebanese drama, nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, offers a balanced mix of tragedy and uplift, while offering surprises.

Zain is a kid old before his time, selling drugs on the streets of Beirut to support his family. The 12-year-old hates his life, especially the chaotic one at home. Guided by his fierce but naive sense of right and wrong, the boy strikes out on his own, searching for the justice he thinks he and other children deserve.

THE LEGO MOVIE (G)

96 minutes, 2014, HBO Go

In 2014, many saw this toy-based work of animation as another brand cash-in, as had been done with the G.I. Joe action figure and the Battleship strategy game.

Instead of doing the usual - taking a standard comedy or thriller, then paint it over with a cosmetic layer of brand references - its film-makers, at the Lego Group's urging, made this an all-ages comedy about events that could happen only in a brick world, while also being unflaggingly sunny, funny and sincere in its love for the Danish snap-together product. If you need a pick-me-up home recovery movie that feels like a shot of caffeine, this one is for you.

PADDINGTON (PG)

95 minutes, 2014, streaming at Shaw Kinolounge (kinolounge.shaw.sg, $4.99)

Like The Lego Movie, this film is about tone as much as it is about story. Put it on and be transported to a world where everyone is kind and nothing hurts. Things are sedate, but are never slow when the marmalade-loving bear of the title moves from "darkest Peru" to live with the Browns in London.

A gentle, low-stakes adventure begins when Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) adapts to life in the big city and has to escape the clutches of the wicked taxidermist Milicent Clyde, played with icy malice by Nicole Kidman. This wonderfully calming film, and its equally charming 2017 sequel, Paddington 2, starring Hugh Grant, are available on Shaw Kinolounge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2021, with the headline 'Movies to watch'. Subscribe