Start 2018 in a positive frame of mind with these life-affirming films.
Stephen A Russell

12 Jan 2018 - 1:04 PM  UPDATED 12 Jan 2018 - 1:04 PM

Well, we made it through 2017 without the Commander in Tweet sparking nuclear war, and that’s something worth celebrating. 

Here’s a collection of SBS On Demand films about fresh starts, kicking goals and becoming a better you that we hope begins your 2018 with positivity and minimal Armageddon.



USA, 2015
Genre: Romance
Language:  English
Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson
What's it about?
Patricia Highsmith didn’t put her real name to her ground-breaking lesbian romance novel, Carol – nee The Price of Salt, until late in life, but that was more about being pigeonholed than fear of scandal. Indeed, it was an instant hit. Todd Haynes' sublime adaptation, starring Blanchett and Mara, and penned by Highsmith’s good friend Phyllis Nagy, proves new love (occurring over New Year) can conquer all, including bridging the social divide and moral hectoring. 


'Rust and Bone'

France, 2012
Genre: Drama, romance
Language: French
Director: Jacques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
What's it about?

Audiard’s Palme d'Or-nominated triumph depicts two lost souls inexorably drawn together after a horrendous accident at a sea park that leaves Cottilard’s Stéphanie disabled, with single dad Ali (Schoenaerts) taking on a rehabilitative role in more ways than one. An incendiary screen pairing, this heart-swollen film is brutal and beautiful in equal measure, a testament to life rebuilt stronger.



Sweden, 2009
Genre: Drama
Language: Swedish
Director: Lisa Langseth
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Samuel Fröler
What's it about?

Vikander’s breakout performance explores the power of self-actualisation. Playing 20-year-old Katarina, caught in an unhappy home life with an alcoholic mother, her passion for classical music leads her to a gig as a receptionist at the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. An affair with the head conductor (Fröler) brings joy and then more trials, but her newfound hope and indomitable spirit is inspiring for anyone looking to recast their circumstances.


'Putuparri and the Rainmakers'

Australia, 2015
Genre: Documentary
Language: English, Aboriginal
Director: Nicole Ma
Starring: Putuparri Tom Lawford
What's it about?
Ma’s mesmeric documentary illuminates the triumphs and failings of one Wangkajunga man, Lawford, living in remote North-Western Australia. A charismatic guide, we see his progress from spritely young man to a grandfather dealing with the aftermath of his alcoholism. It’s also a treatise on the nature of time, spirituality and Australia’s ever-delayed reckoning with its First Nations people, and the result of countless failed colonial policies. A film all Australians should see if we hope to imagine a better future for this country. 



New Zealand, 2010
Genre: Comedy, drama
Language: English
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: James Rolleston, Taika Waititi
What's it about?

Sometimes when our heroes let us down, we have to step up to the plate and become our own hero. That’s the case with the luminescent Rolleston’s screen debut as 11-year-old Boy, a young lad who worships his recently released from prison, deadbeat dad (Waititi) until he doesn’t. The Thor: Ragnarok director’s sophomore feature is a hilarious and heartfelt comic drama about resilience. 


'Wings of Desire'

Germany, 1987
Genre: Drama
Language: German, English
Director: Wim Wenders
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Otto Sander, Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk
What's it about?

Wim Wender’s classic set in a divided Berlin strikes at the very heart of what it is to be human – the trials, tribulations, and ultimately the desire to be seen, to matter and to be loved. As observed through the eyes of two angels (Ganz and Sander), subtly inspiring and even envying the lives of mortals, it’s a gloriously meditative, affecting movie. Beautifully shot by Henri Alekan, co-written with playwright Peter Handke and featuring American actor Peter Falk as himself, Wings of Desire celebrates the small but glorious awards of life. 


'Long Way North'

France, Denmark, 2015
Genre: Animation, drama, family
Language: French, English
Director: Rémi Chayé
Starring: Christa Therét, Féodor Atkine, Peter Hudson
What's it about?

A brilliantly empowering kids’ movie with a strong feminist message follows Russian aristocratic girl Sasha (Therét), who will not stick to courtly stuffiness. When all else have forsaken her explorer grandfather, lost after an expedition to the North Pole, she sets out on a mission to rescue him in this sumptuously rendered animation from debut director Chayé. Plucky, moving and inspiring. 



UK/Ireland, 2015
Genre: Drama, romance
Language: English
Director: John Crowley
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson
What's it about?

Relocating half way around the world tests your emotional reserves to their limits, but it can also be the making of a person. This wistful immigrant’s tale, adapted by Nick Hornby from the best-selling Colm Tóibín novel, spans the old world and new, and cemented Ronan’s rising star status, bringing her second Oscar nom after 2008’s Atonement


'Purple Rain'

USA, 1984
Genre: Drama, musical
Language: English
Director: Albert Magnoli
Starring: Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day
What's it about?

Always believe in your dreams. That’s the major takeaway from debut director Magnoli’s OTT rock musical/major album promotion/sort-of biopic of the dearly beloved and sadly lost too soon purple one. Well, that and a hefty dose of sexism, but if you can put that cringe-worthy stuff to one side, this gloriously raucous inside look at Minneapolis’ burgeoning music scene of the '80s is bonkers fun.



Sweden, 2013
Genre: Science fiction
Language: Swedish
Director: Antonio Tublen
Starring: Patrik Karlson, Izabella Jo Tschig
What's it about?

And with the madman in the White House in mind, New Year’s is the perfect time to remind yourself that with great power comes great responsibility and that our darkest impulses must be kept in check if we want to be a better person. Recalling Berberian Sound System, Tublen’s dark mirror sci-fi about a man who can hypnotise and manipulate anyone through audio is a great reminder to strive to be good. 


SBS On Demand: Golden Globe collection
Watch more outstanding work from some of the big Globes winners at SBS On Demand.