“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
As I write this, winter seems to have a stranglehold on our weather, though I swear I see some trees stubbornly budding. I’ve decided it doesn’t matter what the actual temperature is—or the fact that we’ve still got snow—it’s March! It’s spring break! And spring is sometimes a feeling more than a state, especially in Canada.
But to truly give myself (and you, dear reader) that spring-is-coming feeling, I’ve decided to compile a list of my favourite films that make me feel all hopeful and peaceful and green and blossoming. (Those are all real emotions, I promise).
The 2009 version (which to me is the only version) is full of beauty, nostalgia, and the bloom of hope and joy in a frozen, grieving home haunted by loss and fear. It’s about two children, neglected and spoiled in very different ways, learning to laugh and smile and care for others and the good green earth. It’s about a garden that’s been as abandoned and isolated and left to ruin as they are. Ultimately, it’s about healing, growing, and thriving.
This film also does a really good job of adapting the book. There are changes, of course, but largely for the better. More importantly, the movie perfectly captures the simple, natural magic of the atmosphere, the actors are phenomenal and true to the author’s depiction, and the setting is an exact reflection of the text’s description.
Sincere, light-hearted, gorgeously costumed, character-driven Emma (2020) is a pretty, fluttery masterpiece, and my preferred version of all the different adaptations. The titular Emma is trapped in a small, boring town with a hypochondriac father she loves dearly, in a house she’s managed pretty much since her mother passed and her elder sister married and left. She has few actual peers, barring (at a stretch) her childhood friend and neighbor Mr. Knightley. That is, until Harriet comes along. Emma decides to befriend her, make getting Harriet happily and successfully settled in life her new project, and play matchmaker for everyone around her along the way.
Emma means well—she really does want the best for almost everyone in her life—but she’s shortsighted and a bit blind to her own privileges and other people’s plights, and too convinced of her own cleverness. (To be fair, she’s surrounded by ridiculous people). Still, she learns better before it’s too late, and does her best to fix what she can, making this a feel-good film with the perfect amount of sweetness mixed in with the silly.
If you like Ghibli films, you’ll probably love this. It’s Howl’s Moving Castle meets Kiki’s Delivery Service meets Spirited Away, while still being it’s own gorgeous film: lush, fluid, and vibrantly animated. Mary follows a mysterious cat into the nearby forest and discovers an old broomstick and the strange Fly-by-Night flower, a rare plant that blossoms once every seven years.
Together, the flower and the broomstick whisk Mary above the clouds, and far away to Endor College—a school of magic run by headmistress Madam Mumblechook and the brilliant Doctor Dee. But there are terrible things happening at the school, and when Mary tells a lie, she must risk her life to try and set things right.
Ok so hear me out. This is a pretty intense film in parts, but! It’s all about rebirth and regrowth and renewal, which feels very coming-out-of-a-harsh-and-desolate winter.
In the remote Irish woods, Cellach prepares a fortress for an impending attack by a Viking war party. Unbeknown to Cellach, his young nephew Brendan—who has no taste for battle—works secretly as an apprentice in the scriptorium of the local monastery, learning the ancient art of calligraphy. While in the woods, he encounters a mysterious girl named Aisling. As the Vikings approach, revered illuminator Aidan arrives at the monastery and recruits Brendan to complete a series of dangerous, magical tasks.
It’s a really stunningly animated film (recognizing a theme here?) and a visual feast for the eyes, accompanied by a truly poignant story, a gorgeous melding of Celtic mythology with New Testament beliefs, and beautifully developed characters. Every film by Cartoon Saloon has so far been incredible, narratively and visually, so I also highly recommend checking out Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner, and Wolfwalkers (this last which I am aghast to discover we don’t have. Thankfully, we accept purchase requests and you can submit one here).
Say what you will about the 2005 version or Kiera Knightley, but I love this film. I love every single actor (this is my favourite Darcy; sorry to any Colin Firth!Darcy fans out there), I love the directorial choices, and I love the cinematography, which is breathtaking. To say nothing of the score! This is one of my top comfort films, and the gorgeous countryside shots just resonates spring to me.
Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners, and I find this version depicts the comedy part of that really well, while still maintaining the sincerity, heart, and depth of feeling of Austen’s work. I find that the character’s flaws come across really clearly too: Elizabeth and Dary are both proud and prejudiced, Darcy’s social awkwardness is evident without being cringey, Wickham is attractive right up until he isn’t, and Jane and Bingley are lovely but lacking in spine right up until they (sort of) develop enough of one to seize their happiness.
So! Those are some of my favourite spring films! Looking at the list now I’m noticing some trends. I’m curious though, what movies (or shows or books etc) give you that spring feeling? Send a comment through; I’d love to add to my list!