I’m not sure that “Women Finding Themselves” is an actual official genre of movies. But it definitely is the name my daughter Maya has given all the movies I took her to see back when I was too poor to hire a babysitter. I think it might have started with Like Water for Chocolate (she was about 7). But I have to say, it’s my favorite unofficial genre, and always a good reminder that we women are on a journey together in search of a sort of self-freedom and fulfillment that is most often found in nontraditional places—sometimes in love, sometimes beyond love, but always rooted in finding a love of one’s own self, enough love to find the courage to make the hard changes and live a life of one’s dreams.
So here is my list, in no particular order of my favorite “Women Finding Themselves” movies:
1. Like Water for Chocolate At first, it’s seems like it’s about love. But later in my life, when I watched it again, I realized it’s also about freedom from a domineering mother. All the movies on this list will show you different things each time you watch them. But it’s also about finding love!
2. Enchanted April I don’t remember much about this movie other than the slow, summery, languid poetry of women finding themselves among the sound of life on the Italian Mediterranean. This one I should probably watch again!
3. Shakespeare in Love Just watched this one for the second time with my teenager (at her request). Oh, it’s good. Queen Elizabeth played by Dame Judy Dench is epic.
4. Brick Lane Sensual, sweet, gritty, real, it’s the story of Indian immigrants living in London and trying to make a go of it. Sigh. Good love scenes in this one.
5. Orlando OK we are now entering the Tilda Swinton portion of the list. She is the quintessential woman finding herself. Here, she plays a man and a woman who live forever, based on the Virginia Woolf novel of the same name. Worth reading the book and watching the movie, but there is one scene in which she is running in the wet English grass in a black gown and, I think, being chased by a handsome man…. La!
6. I Am Love Tilda again. She’s Scottish in real life, but she plays a Russian who is married to an Italian and so, speaks Italian. What a woman! What an EXPLOSION of desire and passion. Totally awesome movie that stayed with me for days.
7. The Young Victoria The Emily Blunt version of the great Queen of England becoming the Great Queen. So well done and beautiful. I love the scene in which she walks into Buckingham Palace for the first time and skips a bit and says, “I’m free!”
8. The Queen Helen Mirren is also a goddess of the Women Finding Themselves genre. I think I love movies in which a woman has to find herself within the limits of a rigid responsibility (probably because that feels like my life!). So perfect and so strong. It’s hard to look at Queen Elizabeth now without seeing that movie version in my head.
9. Lucia Lucia I rented this movie since I have a daughter named Lucia. It’s a good thing I didn’t let her watch it. It’s about a woman whose husband mysteriously disappears and she goes off to find him (and…finds herself instead…surprise!). It’s got one of the best desert sex scenes ever filmed.
10. Last Holiday OK, it was a toss up between this and The Sound of Music, but it’s hard to pass up any movie with Gerard Depardieu in it. Queen Latifah plays a woman who gets a death sentence from her doctor and decides to live out her fantasy before she dies. It was cheesy, but fun.
By the way, every single one of these movies will make you feel good when it’s over. No depression! No sadness. Well, I guess it depends on your take on things. I Am Love was a bit dark, but I could handle it.
So what have I missed? Any to add to my list? I’d love to know what your favorite movies in this “genre” are!