Family Movies
2 Nov 2013
The Good Earth

Director: Sidney Franklin (1937, English, 138 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: family.

Summary: Yet to write.


The Bicycle Thief (Ladri Di Biciclette)

Director: Vittorio De Sica (1948, French, 93 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (98%), IMDB (8.4), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: city life, crime, family.

Summary: A poignant movie of a father and son who search for a stolen bicycle. The setting is depression days in Italy, soon after World War II. Realistic, entertaining and sad.

The Bicycle Thief has been a favorite of critics for several decades, showing up in many 'top movies' lists. See List of Films Considered the Best (Wikipedia).


Pather Panchali

Director: Satyajit Ray (1955, Bengali, 119 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (97%), IMDB (8.1), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: death, family, village life.

Summary: Pather Panchali is one of my favorite movies. It was the first movie by Satyajit Ray and one of his best. The story revolves around a poor family in Bengal. Every character in the story is a combination of good and bad qualities. They interact with each other, just like normal people in a village. The strength of the movie is in showcasing simple, routine events in the lives of its characters in meticulous detail, without any moral judgment.

Satyajit Ray chose ordinary characters for Pather Panchali, not artists who had been trained in acting. Acting is superb, camerawork is great. Something that I really liked was that emotions were conveyed through gestures and facial expressions, with minimal or no dialogue.

A recent movie, Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Hindi) also showcases poverty in India. I was quite put off by this movie. First, Slumdog Millionaire is neither fiction nor realistic; it is somewhere in between. Pather Panchali is realistic. Second, the portrayal of poverty in Slumdog Millionaire was distasteful, as if poverty is a disease or a curse. Satyajit Ray showcases poverty in a dignified way. The characters in his movie shine through their circumstances. I felt uplifted after watching the movie.


Ballad of Narayama (Narayama Bushiko)

Director: Keisuke Kinoshita (1958, Japanese, 98 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: death, family, intense.

Summary: Yet to write.


The Cloud Capped Star (Meghe Dhake Tara)

Director: Ritwik Ghatak (1960, Bengali, 126 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (8.1), Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: depressing, family, illness, intense, village life.

Summary: Haunting and tragic. Very well made. Character development and story telling were both wonderful. I felt that each role was played to perfection and there were no extra characters.

This is the first movie by Ritwik Ghatak that I saw and I really liked it. Recommended if you're in a mood to watch a serious, sombre, tragedy.


An Autumn Afternoon (Sanma No Aji)

Director: Yasujiro Ozu (1962, Japanese, 112 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (8.1), Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: family.

Summary: Yet to write.


The Big City (Mahanagar)

Director: Satyajit Ray (1963, Bengali, 122 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (89%), IMDB (8.0), Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: YouTube, YouTube.

Similar movies: city life, family.

Summary: Yet to write.


Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

Director: Stanley Kramer (1967, English, 108 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (65%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: Amazon Prime.

Similar movies: family, joyful, romance.

Summary: A brilliant movie. The story revolves around a rich white liberal San Francisco couple. Their 23-year old daughter comes home from a trip to Hawaii along with a 37-year old black man who lost his wife and son in an accident many years ago. The man is a famous doctor with a long list of accomplishments. His dad is a retired mailman. The love birds announce that they are getting married within a few days. In 1967, such a marriage was a criminal offence in many states in USA. The couple spend the afternoon and the evening with the girl's parents. Later, they are joined by the boy's parents and a reverand.

The movie showcases how various people in the situation react: the girl, his mother, his father, their maid, the boy, his mother and his father. I chuckled many times. The plot, the characters and the dialogues are entertaining. For the first several minutes, the movie felt like a play but I quickly got used to it.

The Indian connection is that a lot of modern marriages are between couples from different family backgrounds. Some have different native languages. In a few cases, even the religion is different. The movie shows how parents react to an announcement by their children that they have fallen in love with somebody that their parents may never have imagined. The relationships between the mothers and their kids, the relationships between the dads and their kids and with each other - these are brought out well.


The Case is Closed (Kharij)

Director: Mrinal Sen (1982, Bengali, 95 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (43%), IMDB (7.3), Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: death, depressing, family, intense, suspense.

Summary: The story is simple: a servant boy dies in an apartment. What happens next? There is a little bit of suspense as events unfold but the focus is on how various people handle the situation. The social fabric of middle class life is portrayed very well. Even though the theme of the movie is intense, there is no melodrama.

A succinct summary of the movie is here.


My Life As A Dog (Mitt Liv Som Hund)

Director: Lasse Hallström (1985, Swedish, 101 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (7.7), Amazon.

Similar movies: childhood, death, family, illness, intense.

Summary: A beautiful movie! A 12-year old boy named Ingemar is the main character. He is faced with his mother's illness, puberty, relocation to another town and separation from his dog, all at once. In the midst of turbulence, a panorama of joyful, sorrowful and comic moments unfolds in Ingemar's life. Lasse Hallström has handled the storyline well. The movie is delicate, touching and authentic.

Character development is pretty good. Other than the main characters, there are queer townsfolk which add spice. Landscape shots of Swedish homes in snow are gorgeous. The movie won the Golden Globe Award for the Best Foreign Film in 1987.

An ongoing thread in the movie is innocent exploration of sexuality at young age. The scenes in the movie may surprise Indian audiences who have to realize that sexuality is handled very differently in Sweden. For example, an effective sex education program is in place since 1956. Kids who grow up in USA and relocate to Sweden are shocked when they attend these classes. At the same time, they find them rewarding because Sweden's program is more in touch with reality than the equivalent US program. Straight Facts about the Birds and Bees in US News, 2007. RFSU is the organization behind Sweden's sex education programs.


What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

Director: Lasse Hallström (1993, English, 118 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (89%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: NetFlix.

Similar movies: family, illness.

Summary: An awesome movie showcasing a dysfunctional family in a small town. What holds the family together is love. The main character, Gilbert, assumes a lot of responsibility. He has a morbidly obese mom who never ventures out of home, a mentally challenged younger brother and two sisters in the family. He is commited to taking care of everybody in his family, especially his younger brother Arnie, and his mom.

Acting by Johnny Depp (as Gilbert Grape), Leonardo DiCaprio (as Arnie Grape) and Darlene Cates (as mom) is awesome.



Director: S S Gulzar (1996, Hindi, 160 mins)

Reviews: IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: family.

Summary: Yet to write.


Shall We Dansu

Director: Masayuki Suo (1996, Japanese, 136 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (91%), IMDB (7.7), Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: NetFlix.

Similar movies: family, romance.

Summary: A successful but bored accountant in Tokyo is enamored by a beautiful woman gazing out of a dance studio window. Dancing and public display of affection are shameful in Japanese society. But his desire to meet the woman propels him to break societal norms. He starts taking lessons for western dance styles like waltz. He hides his new found passion from his wife and teenage daughter. Soon, his attraction for the woman in the dance studio becomes secondary and he starts enjoying dance for its own sake. It brings him great joy and freedom.

The movie is not a classic but lovely. What's lovely? Each character in the story: the worker, his wife, his daughter, his dance teacher, the girl he is attracted to, his office colleague and a private detective — each person is kind hearted and forgiving.


Postmen in the Mountains (Nashan Naren Nagou)

Director: Jianqi Huo (1999, Mandarin, 93 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (96%), IMDB (7.7), Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: family.

Summary: Yet to write.


My Neighbors The Yamadas (Hôhokekyo Tonari No Yamada-Kun)

Director: Isao Takahata (1999, Japanese, 104 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (71%), IMDB (7.2), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: anime, family, joyful.

Summary: A comedy anime movie by Isao Takahata. Minimalistic hand drawn cartoons. Some beautiful scenes showcasing conflict and love among all members of a family. The movie does not have a story. It is a series of short scenes showing various aspects of the family. The last fifteen minutes seemed long drawn to me. Overall, a watchable movie.


The Color of Paradise (Rang-E Khoda)

Director: Majid Majidi (2000, Persian, 90 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (87%), IMDB (8.0), Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: childhood, family.

Summary: A beautiful movie that explores why things are the way they are - what did people do wrong to merit their circumstances? Of course, there are no answers to these questions, only a sense of wonder and acceptance.

The main characters are a blind boy Mohammed and his dad Hashem, who is a semi-skilled laborer. For the last five years, Hashem has been having a tough time raising a family of three after his wife died. Raising a blind child has added to the challenge. So Hashem makes a trip to his village with Mohammed to get married again. Watch the movie to see how events unfold.

One of the best scenes is Mohammed's arrival in his village, where his 10-year old sisters are living with their grandmom. The squeals and the smiles of his sisters are heartwarming.

Bird sounds are prominent throughout the movie. During my hikes, I had started paying attention to bird sounds. Earlier this year, at a gas station, I remember telling a friend about the myriad birds that live among us in the trees. They wake up early morning and start chirping merrily

Mohammed's exploration of beauty around him through his fingers is nicely presented. Landscape shots and scenes in forests are gorgeous.

A detailed review by FilmSufi (read only after watching the movie).


The Island (Dweepa)

Director: Girish Kasaravalli (2002, Kannada, 132 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (6.0), Wikipedia.

Watch online: YouTube, YouTube, YouTube.

Similar movies: family, village life.

Summary: A village is about to be submerged in water because of a dam. The goverment is paying a family of three a meager sum of money to relocate. However the family (husband, wife and husband's father) are priests. By relocating to a small town and starting afresh, they stand to lose the love and respect they traditionally received, generation after generation.

Many shots have water. The river, the rains, the jungle and lush green valleys would be lovely to see on a large screen with good print. Music is good, with a simple but haunting tune that plays in the background repeatedly.

The movie is attractive for a special reason. Through its characters, the director makes us think: Who is doing things? Is it us or the Universe? How should we face a situation? With optimism, fatalism, withdrawal or fantasy? The 'Inner Theme' section in the Wikipedia article has a well written summary of the belief systems and the approach to life of the four main characters:

As in all films by Girish Kasaravalli, Dweepa deals with an 'inner' theme: that of human minds that isolate themselves due to former beliefs and convictions. Each character emerges as a representation of different viewpoints. The protagonist Nagi (Soundarya) has been portrayed as an optimistic character whose support is hope and only that. One can notice how the character finally emerges as a symbol of positive thinking and optimism. Ganapa (Avinash), on the contrary, resigns to fate and finally, when they narrowly escape submersion, he fails to see that his wife has achieved the impossible. Duggajja (M.V.VasudevaRao) withdraws from the catastrophe rather than face it. He is devastated to see his convictions and beliefs crumble before his eyes and, in the end, he clings to his beliefs in desperation. Krishna (Harish Raju) portrays a typical dreamer, who can mesmerize the village folk with fairy tales about the world beyond the isolated island. In short, he encapsulates the 'fantasy' world we tend to dream about.

Just like the French movie Red, the main female character is awesome! She personifies hope, commitment and strength. I could watch this movie again to see how she deftly handles situations.


The Song of Sparrows (Avaze Gonjeshk-Ha)

Director: Majid Majidi (2008, Persian, 96 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (98%), IMDB (7.9), Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: city life, family.

Summary: Nice movie. The story shapes up organically. The main character is Karim, a middle aged dad who struggles to provide for his family. After losing his job in an ostrich farm, he picks up odd jobs in the city. The differences in the pace of life and the value systems of people in villages and cities is brought out well. City life starts transforming Karim but occasional sightings of ostriches bring him back to his roots. Overall, the movie is about joys and sorrows, the ups and downs of life.

A detailed review by FilmSufi (read only after watching the movie).


Summer Days With Coo (Kappa No Ku To Natsu Yasumi)

Director: Keiichi Hara (2007, Japanese, 138 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.4), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: anime, family.

Summary: The central character in the movie is a "kappa" who is taken care of by a family in Japan. Kappas are Japanese mythical creatures. They are small sized, with frog like features and stand upright like humans. A kappa's father is killed in the Edo era. Immediately thereafter, there is an earthquake and the kappa falls into a giant crack in earth. Hundreds of years later, a Japanese boy breaks open the shell that held the kappa together, bringing him to life! The movie shows how the boy's family adopts the kappa, what happens when the world learns of its existence, the boy's friendship with a girl who is rejected by everybody else, and what happens to the kappa eventually. There are reflections on death, reverence for ancestors and a critique of modern lifestyle that wipes out natural dwellings of other creatures.

On the whole, a beautiful movie! Aimed at older kids and adults. A tad slow at a few places and long at 138 mins. Storyline is excellent, there are no loose threads.

The movie is relatively unknown in the West. Amazon doesn't even have a DVD. A good review is here.

Watch online: English sub-titlesother choices. The sub-titles are high quality. When a reference to Japanese towns or mythical creatures comes up, there is an explanation of what that word means in full sentences.


Well Done Abba!

Director: Shyam Benegal (2009, Hindi, 144 mins)

Reviews: IMDB (7.2), Amazon.

Similar movies: comedy, family, village life.

Summary: Yet to write.


Hachi, A Dog's Tale

Director: Lasse Hallström (2009, English, 93 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (62%), IMDB (8.2), Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: death, family, true story.

Summary: Simple story. Touching. Based on a true story from Japan about a dog and his master. The main character in the movie is a dog named Hachi who is discovered by Richard Gere on a train station. The movie showcases the strong bond that exists between Hachi and Richard Gere.

Hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon.



Director: Alexander Payne (2013, English, 114 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (91%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: family, old age.

Summary: A comical, heartwarming B&W movie about an old man who starts believing that he won a million dollars in a lottery and wants to travel 900 miles to collect his money. If nobody will take him, he will go on foot. His son agrees to drive him. They go via a town where his dad grew up, meeting old friends and family.


A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin)

Director: Asghar Farhadi (2012, Persian, 123 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (99%), IMDB (8.4), Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: city life, depressing, family, intense, separation.

Summary: An intense family drama that won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2012. The story involves two families. The first family is a middle class couple with an 11-year old daughter. The husband's father lives with them. He has Alzheimer's. The second family is a poor family with a 5-year old daughter. Both families have troubles of their own, a lot of which is due to the strong personalities of the two husbands. Acting is great. Character development is awesome. The story is gripping. It kept me engaged throughout. An Amazon review aptly puts it, "The only film where people watch the end credits with bated breath!" :)

After watching the movie, I read the story at Wikipedia and understood a few moments in the movie better.



Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour (2013, Arabic, 98 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (99%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia.

Similar movies: childhood, city life, family.

Summary: A cute movie with a serious theme. Great acting by everybody. The social conditions around a 10-year old girl are portrayed, as seen from her eyes. Music was pretty good. Worth watching.


Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Director: Sharat Katariya (2015, Hindi, 110 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.5), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: city life, family, romance.

Summary: A beautiful movie that shows how a couple comes together after serious conflicts from the first day of marriage.


Before I Disappear

Director: Shawn Christensen (2014, English, 93 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.2), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: family, suspense.

Summary: "Before I Disappear" stars a depressed and suicidal drug addict who is called by his sister to take care of his 10-year old niece for a day. The two of them have never met before. The drug addict is a loser looking for redemption by doing one good thing in his life. The niece is precocious; she excels in every subject at school. The movie is about how they establish a bond with each other.


© Copyright 2008—2018, Gurmeet Manku.