Sentimental Simon Part 1

Do you ever cry at books or films?


My answer is unashamedly yes. I very often get emotionally drawn into a story to the point that I can be moved to tears. Far from being embarrassed by this, I think it is healthy and cathartic.

Here then is part one of a two part confession, wherein I list books or films that provoked blubbing. This part concerns films.

Here, in no particular order, are ten films (there are more) to have provoked tears. Some are perennial tearjerkers, but you may be surprised by some of the less obvious examples. In fact, let’s start with a film from last year I recently re-watched, provoking a certain amount of eye-moistening.

The Babadook – The best horror film of the decade to date is also one of the most moving. At its core, The Babadook is a grueling, painful but extremely cathartic examination of guilt and grief. In addition to being terrified, I could not stop crying for much of the running time because if felt so raw and painful, thanks to the amazing performances.

The Iron Giant – Boy meets amnesiac giant robot in McCarthy era Maine. A criminally underrated gem that for once doesn’t invite children to cheer at violence. The surprisingly powerful and moving finale always provokes a certain amount of lower lip wobblage. (“I stay, you go. No following…”).

Cinema Paradiso – An acquaintance of mine once watched this film and said to me afterwards “Now I think I understand you”. To really give the tear ducts a proper work-out, make sure you watch the extended version. For hopeless romantics, the extra footage contains almost as much heart-wrench as the spectacularly moving final scene.

Grave of the Fireflies – This animated account of two children trying to survive towards the end of the Second World War in Japan is enough to make a paving slab weep. One of the most devastating, fiercely uncompromising, resolutely apolitical depictions of the appalling effects of war on innocent children ever put on film. Difficult to recover from, impossible to forget. Let’s just say that by the end I was a blubbering, speechless wreck.

Life is Beautiful – This film has a special place in my heart because when I saw it at the cinema with my wife to be, we were both equally captivated. Although some thought the film’s Holocaust comedy premise to be in poor taste (mistakenly in my view), we both found it almost unbearably moving.

Departures – There are many moments of dark comedy in this Japanese funeral drama to bring counterpoint and ensure things don’t get depressing. However, the final scene has to be one of the most powerfully cathartic and profoundly emotional I have ever seen. The expression “floods of tears” seems pathetically inadequate.

The Tree of Life – I adore this love-it-or-hate-it film for many, many deeply personal reasons. Essentially a cinematically spellbinding riff on the book of Job, it deals with the thorny question of suffering with, according to your point of view, irritating pretentiousness, or immense profundity. I take the latter view, and have to confess that the “heaven” scene near the end on the beach makes me break down every time I watch it.

Inside Out – The most recent addition to this list is a film I saw twice last summer and cried on both occasions in at least two scenes. Anyone who can make a film this good featuring a ridiculous character called Bing-bong made of candyfloss that is part elephant, part cat, part dolphin and cries sweets is already a genius. Anyone who can use a character like that to provoke absolute floods in the audience is practically a cinematic god. And that’s before I even mention the weapons grade tear-jerking finale.

Schindler’s List – Another obvious choice. I remember crying throughout the last half hour when I saw it at the cinema. By the end, the entire audience sat in stunned silence throughout the credits and after they had finished, when the lights came up, I turned and saw the entire audience had remained seated (despite the three hour fifteen minute running time), their faces stained with tears. I will never, ever forget that experience.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial – This list would be incomplete without ET, simply because one particular scene makes me cry every time, without fail, every time I see it. The sequence in question, when the NASA scientists try to resuscitate ET and Elliot and Gertie sob hysterically, features some of the most extraordinary child acting I have ever seen, which combined with Spielberg’s astonishing direction and John Williams’ career-best music score, prove absolutely impossible to resist. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is nothing less than the cinematic equivalent of weepie hypnotism.

See, now I’ve left out It’s a Wonderful Life. How could I have missed that off the list so close to Christmas?

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