Five Films To Let Go Of The Past

By Martha Sigargök-Martin | Films

Jan 03

Let’s start this year like a phoenix reborn from its ashes

Coming into a new year isn’t only the occasion for working on your goals and wishing the best for you and your loved ones, but also for reflecting on the past.

This means also letting go of things, and sometimes, people.

Not only films empower us, but they help us processing the challenges of life as well.

Here are five films to help you let go.

All five are based on novels.

1. Wild by Jean-Marc Vallé starring Reese Witherspoon (2014)

Based on the biographical bestselling novel by Cheryl Strayed, “Wild” tells the story of the author. Divorced, lost and heartbroken by the recent death of her mother, Cheryl decides to leave Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she leads a life of sex and drug abuse to hike 1,100 miles of the 2,650 Pacific Crest despite her lack of experience.

Unsure to do the right thing, afraid and devastated, she starts to walk her first miles. She experiences physical pain, heat, cold, fear and loneliness but keeps on going.

Reese Witherspoon has proved once more in this film, that she’s much more than just “Legally Blond”.

This self-discovery journey isn’t a kitsch story, but a true one and one of the most moving stories I’ve ever watched. If you need to let something go, “Wild” will help you do it.


2. Eat Pray Love by Ryan Murphy starring Julia Roberts (2010)

“Eat Pray Love” is based on a bestselling novel as well. The film tells the story of author Elizabeth Gilbert, who had from an external point of view, everything to be happy, but decides to leave her marriage, house and recently found love affair to spend four months in Italy, three in India and five in Bali.

Now, if you like Julia Roberts, it’ll be easy to like “Eat, Pray, Love”, because she’s the perfect cast for it.

The story may sound like a first-world-problem for rich and bored write woman, but its roots touch the deepest part of every one of us: looking for a home, we can’t find outside ourselves, except maybe if we acknowledge deeply others and the beauty surrounding us. If you’ve ever struggled with being lost and not finding an answer, you’ll cry a lot watching the great tale of Elizabeth Gilbert.


3. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Peter Chelsom starring Simon Pegg, Toni Collette and Rosamund Pike (2014)

“Hector and the Search for Happiness” is based on a novel by François Lelord which relates the story of a psychiatrist who can’t really help his patients, because he’s also incapable of making himself happy. He decides to go on a world tour, looking for happiness, leaving his girlfriend behind.

Hector’s journey takes him through China, Africa, and America, where he visits old friends, meet an ex-girlfriend and is even being kidnapped.
The more I watch Simon Pegg, the more I appreciate his work. He’s one of these actors who can portray tragic-comic at its best.

This rollercoaster of emotions, landscape, and people are going to live you sad, joyful, hopeful, sad and contemplative at the end.


4. The Descendants by Alexander Payne starring Georges Clooney (2011)

Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, “The Descendants” tells the story of Matthew King, an Honolulu-based attorney and the sole trustee of a family trust of 25,000 pristine acres on Kauai. Having squandered their inheritances, and with the trust of the land expiring in seven years, the King clan tries to convince Matt to sell the land, which he refuses. In addition to this family crisis, his wife, Elizabeth, has a tragic accident. Elizabeth is in a coma and Matthew has to find a way back to the heart of his daughters, who are struggling with difficulties of their own.
Georges Clooney is perfect in the role of this placid attorney, who’s screaming and crying inside.

“The Descendants” is the film of this list where the protagonist has to let go the most. Yet, it’s still funny sometimes, and it’s poignant. The author avoided brilliantly the dangerous melodramatic path, but I recommend you to watch it only with a pack of Kleenex next to you.


5. Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro (2012)

“Silver Linings Playbook” is based on a novel by Matthew Quick and tells the story of Pat Solitano Jr.who is discharged from a clinic in which he had spent eight months. His treatment is due to a bipolar disorder. He was admitted after surprising his wife Nikki cheating on him and beating her lover up. He wants to win his wife back but is not allowed to talk to her due to a restraining order.

Invited by his friend Ronnie and his wife Veronica for dinner, he meets Tiffany who just lost her job and her husband. Tiffany has drowned her grief in sex while Pat, doesn’t take his meds and stays delusional about the possibility to get back with his wife.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are perfect as a pair of maniacs with broken wings. The whole letting-go-panoply is in it. From denial to anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. If you’re struggling with letting something or someone go, please watch this.


What are your favorite films to let go of the past? Please, write one to three examples in the comment section below.

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About the Author

Hey! I'm Martha, and I help creative people understanding and solving mental and creative blocks through blog posts about film, series, and creativity, as well as through a creative coaching website (marthasm.com) just dedicated to this topic.