Life isn’t picture perfect, movies prove it

Seeing myself in the films I’ve watched through high school

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Life isn’t picture perfect, movies prove it

Ruth Feng

In this cutthroat environment, everyone has their own ways of remaining sane. In my first year on El Estoque, one head editor told me that he saved Tuesday nights for watching cheesy rom-coms. Looking back, this is probably the wisest piece of advice about MVHS I’ve ever heard. I’ve lived through all my four years at this school, and nothing comes close to the feeling of being so wrapped up in a movie that you forget about the stoichiometry quiz on Tuesday. I’ve watched my fair share, from Oscar winners to sub-20 percent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are the four most pivotal movies of my high school life.

AGE 14: “Interstellar”

I dragged my best friend at the time to watch this Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi movie with me. She promptly fell asleep because the movie didn’t interest her, but woke up as soon as she realized the guy next to her was eating popcorn while his other hand was down his pants. She mouthed “HELP ME” with a look of disgust but there was nothing we could do in such a packed theater on opening night. This movie was released at the peak of my astrophysics phase when I would watch hours of Stephen Hawking videos and aspired to be a NASA astronaut. Unfortunately for my 14-year-old self, I have motion sickness and they still haven’t figured out how to make space suits for women.

AGE 15: “Boyhood”

This film was known as a revolutionary movie because its style of production had never been attempted before — director Richard Linklater shot this movie with the same cast through a period of 12 years. Ellar Coltrane plays Mason, a boy with divorced parents, who we see grow up all the way from elementary school to college. I saw my life in his — the fights for custody my parents probably think I’ve forgotten, the constant moving from apartment to apartment, clashing with an insufferable stepparent, and trying to figure out my own identity in the chaos. If you haven’t listened to “Hero” by Family of the Year yet, do yourself a favor. It’s basically the lyrical embodiment of finding peace in adolescence — it’s famously featured in the scene when Mason drives off to college. No matter where I’m at in life, I can always listen to this song and know that I’ll be alright.

AGE 16: “My Sister’s Keeper”

We watched this movie towards the end of our cancer unit in Physiology. “My Sister’s Keeper” follows a family torn apart by a teenage girl’s leukemia diagnosis. When my grandpa passed away from cancer, I was staunchly in the middle of my rebellious black-nail-polish-punk-rock-bands phase. I was too young to process my emotions, and I thought that being tough and not letting myself cry would somehow make it less real. He was a second father figure to me, the person who walked miles to pick me up from the bus stop and the person I saw in the crowd at every piano recital. Shifting around in an uncomfortable science class stool, I could tell that I wasn’t the only one who was still grieving someone they lost. It was in my high school science classes that I actually learned about cancer in-depth and decided I was going to study to become an oncologist. Experiencing death at a young age is never easy, but I’ve learned that the saying “time heals all” is not just a saying.

AGE 17: “Crazy Rich Asians”

I heard a familiar tune in the background of the scene in which Rachel, a middle-class Asian-American, meets her boyfriend’s traditional mother for the first time. It was a Cantonese song that would always play at the Lion Market on Saratoga Avenue. I remember trotting down the aisles of packaged Pocky’s and poking fish eyes down the walkway. This film was the first time I saw my culture accurately represented on screen — from being embarrassed that my parents spoke Chinese in public to begging my dad to legally change my name from “Rushi” to “Ruth” in 8th grade, I think every child from an immigrant family knows what it’s like to feel ashamed of your own race. Now that Hollywood is finally casting Asian actors and actresses, future generations of Asian-Americans won’t have to hide any part of themselves anymore. Who you are is exactly who you need to be. I ended up seeing this movie in theaters three times with three different friends— there was no doubt I was going to drop everything and support this movie in any way I could.

I can’t call myself a movie buff — I haven’t even seen “The Godfather” trilogy yet. But in these four years, I’ve tried to squeeze in as many genres as possible. So my advice to you is to watch that movie that’s always been on your list. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most importantly, you’ll escape your life for a little serendipitous while.