Lady Bird was one of the defining films of my last decadetwitter/@IndieWire

It’s strange to reflect on a decade whose first half I don’t even remember. I hardly remember what I looked like at the time - not to mention the films I saw back then. In fact, I didn’t care much about films ten years ago. I only became interested in them when I was about 15.

"The only reason for me having seen hundreds of films was an overpowering feeling of escapism"

The reason for that was very simple. My carefree childhood years came to an end when I had to move out of my hometown to study in another city, and as I left the bubble of my family house, the world around me suddenly became incredibly complicated and I was unable to find my place in it. In the times when this reality was especially uncomfortable for me, I had to find a space where my discomfort wouldn’t bother me, where no one would look at me, and I wouldn’t have to think about my place in the world or my relationships with the people in it. And it turned out that the place where this overwhelming sense of incompatibility with the world would leave me was a dark cinema room.

It wouldn’t be right for me to make another list of the ‘best films of the decade’. Firstly, I am no film critic. The only reason for me having seen hundreds of films was an overpowering feeling of escapism. Secondly, as my teenage years were characterised by me desperately trying not to feel alone in this world, my favourite films of the decade are not necessarily those that I liked most aesthetically (Phantom Thread; The Great Beauty; Moonlight) or those that amused me the most (The Lego Movie; The Wolf of Wall Street) or those that touched me the most (Haneke’s Amour; One More Time with Feeling). My favourite films of the decade are those with the characters I could identify with, whose stories and problems felt similar to mine.

"Gerwig managed to capture perfectly the essence of being a teenager"

So, if I were to choose the film that has defined my decade - or rather, the film that is the definition of my teenage years, I would definitely choose Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. My penchant for American coming-of-age movies (and perhaps the film’s ravishing reviews too) made me incredibly excited to see Lady Bird. After watching it for the fifth time, I realised that Gerwig created a character with whom I share a surprising number of experiences. She managed to capture perfectly the essence of being a teenager: the desire to be cool, followed by the sudden realisation that one can never be cool enough; the beauty and innocence of first love; the carelessness and naivety that makes us dwell on the stupidity of our teenage years when we look back on them later in life.

Adam Driver as the titular character in 'Paterson'twitter/@TheAtlantic

If I ever forget how the tiny problems of my teenage years had seemed like the end of the world, or if I ever forget how much I wanted to jump and scream after my first kiss, or how many different and contradictory emotions my teenage self was able to feel at once, I will simply watch Lady Bird and be reminded of the uniqueness of that then-hated period of my life.

In the last decade, I had to make major decisions concerning my education and my future career. I thought that my over-ambitiousness was the best advisor I could ever get when choosing what was best for my well-being and my future happiness. So I thought I’d talk about the films that should have defined my decade, the films that call into question the cult of overachievers with which today’s society is so obsessed. Damien Chazelle’s La La Land and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson are stories about following our dreams, the price we pay for it, and about finding happiness in the simplicity of life.


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Although I left the cinema marvelling at the beauty of both films and thinking that I understood the characters depicted in them perfectly, I can see now that my teenage self was still deeply rooted in that cult of over-ambitiousness. I believed that both Mia and Sebastian made the right decision to follow their dreams (or their ambitions?) - whereas I now doubt their illusory happiness at the end of the film. I gushed over the simplicity of Paterson’s life while gradually abandoning my own passions, like writing poetry or writing down quotes from my favourite books in favour of being ‘organised’ and ‘time-efficient’.

My decade was filled with images, sounds, and stories seen on the silver screen. It may seem strange to see one’s own life through films but it really was - and still is - one of the very few ways I know that helps me to embrace the messiness of life.

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