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Five Films which shaped my first year at Warwick

Studying at Warwick was definitely a turning point in my life. There were countless memorable ‘first times’ – taking a 12-hour flight, cooking new meals, leaving home for an entire year. Some were adventurous, some were pleasant, and some left me on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Prompting me to be braver and stronger, this year has undoubtedly been as wonderful and dramatic as movies.

Spencer (2021) dir. Pablo Larraín

Watching Spencer was a breakthrough moment in my life, as it was my first time watching an English film without subtitles. My mother language is Cantonese. Although I met the IELTS requirements, listening to English in daily conversation was one of the biggest challenges in my first few months here, especially when someone spoke quickly or emotionally. Besides, I prefer using subtitles when I watch Cantonese movies. Helping me catch all the details, they make me feel secure. In Spencer, Kristen Stewart spoke with strong breaths, shouts and cries. Despite the fact that I stayed as focused as I would in the school listening exam, I could still only understand 60% of the dialogue. It was an unpleasant and difficult experience, but my English language skills improved remarkably after that.

CODA (2021) dir. Sian Heder

Whilst Spencer was my worst movie theatre experience at Warwick, CODA brought me the best one. The close-knit family of the protagonist was very heartwarming. Presented authentically without any excessive high-tech visual effect or dramatic twist, this film was tremendously touching. I watched it in late April, when my deadlines and examinations were imminent, and in the midst of the packed schedule and immense pressure, its positivity and warmth empowered me a lot. The protagonist, Ruby, persists with her dream despite the insurmountable challenges from her family. Therefore, why can’t I overcome all the long readings and assignments? From CODA, I got a lovely start to the last part of the school year.

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) dir. Goro Miyazaki

I remember how one Sunday evening, my flatmates had a party in the kitchen. Laughter, loud rock music and the sound of breaking beer bottles penetrated the thin wall into my room. Whilst I enjoy my flatmates’ company, I had no real interest in the party culture due to my introverted nature. Instead, I turned to Netflix and chose From Up on Poppy Hill. To be frank, I do not think it is the best output of Studio Ghibli. However, its soundtrack is soothing, the romantic moments are innocent and the characters’ passion for knowledge is pure, making it a perfect comfort movie. Together, with a pack of dark chocolate biscuits, it is my favourite me-time movie.

Revolution of Our Times (2021) dir. Kiwi Chow

In my first article for The Boar, ‘Five Films from Hong Kong’, I included this film also. After a few months, it was screened in numerous cinemas in Britain. It was ironic that a Hong Kong movie can be watched in several countries like Britain, Canada and Japan, but not in Hong Kong. I myself watched it in London last month. The film portrayed Hong Kong’s largest socio-political movement in the 21st century. Filled with scenes of police brutality and tear gas, it reminded me of the misery, anger and hopelessness experienced since 2019. These feelings urge me to leave where I grew up, but at the same time, the unity and persistence of the people of Hong Kong reminds me of how much I love the place. It seems that in the depths of my heart, there is an identity that can hardly be changed no matter how hard I try to integrate into British society. The struggle of identity, and the struggle of going or staying are lifelong.

Nomadland (2020) dir. Chloé Zhao

In Nomadland, Fern gives up her home and starts life on the road as a nomad. She can sleep comfortably in a river, but she feels homeless in a decent house. The nomads in the film choose not to settle in a particular place as they want to explore their identities. This year, I was exposed to many people, their cultures, and my knowledge developed. Having left a tiny city which only stressed profit and income, I learnt that there are a lot of new and exciting possibilities in my life. However, these possibilities sometimes make me feel perplexed. In my future, what will I do? Where will I stay? What kind of person will I become? My first year at Warwick is going to end, but my journey of self-exploration has just begun. Just like Nomadland, this journey never ends.

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