Like a well-written book, a good movie can transport you to another time and place, enrich your soul, and even inspire a new perspective on life. (It can also provide about an hour and a half of sweet escapism from the world of toddler wrangling.)
We asked three professional movie reviewers — moms all — to transport, enrich, and inspire you with five must-watch recommendations. Each film features a strong female lead character you can relate to, and a poignant story that will touch your heart. Got your bowl of popcorn ready to go? Great. Lower the lights, hit the couch, and . . . escape!
Set in France in the late 1970s, this sharp, hilarious, and stylishly composed movie follows Suzanne, the wife of a wealthy industrialist, who takes over her husband’s umbrella factory when the workers boot him out. At first she appears to be the typical trophy wife, but looks are deceiving. Played by the legendary Catherine Deneuve, Suzanne shocks everyone when she turns out to be a business whiz. Full of wit, silliness, and surprises, this one is anything but formulaic.
Academy award–winner Juliette Binoche stars as Vianne Rocher, a spunky, creative young mother who defies the uptight conventions of a small French village when she opens her own chocolate shop. As her neighbors prepare to observe Lent — a six-week period during which Christians give up a vice — Rocher’s unconventional lifestyle and deliciously indulgent treats stimulate passions like never before. Also starring Johnny Depp, Chocolat is a feast for the senses.
—Elizabeth Weitzman, film critic for the New York Daily News; mom of a 4-year-old daughter
Snow Flower and The Secret Fan (2011)
Two tales play out simultaneously in this heartwarming — and heart-wrenching — film about friendship. One takes place in 19th-century China and follows Snow Flower and Lily, two young girls growing up in a rigid society, who come up with a code to communicate secretly. In the other story, Nina and Sophia shed light on the struggles women face in present-day Shanghai. This movie will transport you to another era, refresh your belief in the force of the human spirit, and remind you how dearly you appreciate your own friends.
—Louise Keller, co-founder and deputy editor of Urban Cinefile (urbancinefile.com.au) and a mom of two
Jane Eyre (2011)
There are quite a few filmed adaptations of this classic 1847 novel by Charlotte Brontë. We recommend the 2011 version, starring Australian actress Mia Wasikowska. It’s haunting and beautiful and breathes new life into the timeless tale about a young woman, Jane, battling to break free from her wretched childhood and the position in society she’s expected to assume. Jane exemplifies the ambitious woman who won’t give up on her dreams.
Little Women (1994)
Four sisters discover their own strengths and passions on the homefront while their father serves in the Civil War. The 1994 hit, also based on a classic novel, by Louisa May Alcott, focuses on the deep connections that can tie a family together. It’s full of adventure, warmth, romance, and charming costumes and scenery. Every mom can relate to the squabbles among the sisters and appreciate the film’s intimate look at what life was like for women in America during that time.
—Nell Minow, author of The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and a mom of two
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Music Box Films