Over the past few weeks, there have been quite a few blog posts recommending different TV series, films and albums for those of us in lockdown to get stuck into. With so much bad news and stress occupying our screens at the moment, the urge to escape into fantasy worlds, different storylines and epic soundtracks is stronger than ever. We want to hide away from the pandemic, and spend just an hour or so being someone else, living someone elses life. No matter whether they’re a romcom heart-throb, a horror movie victim, an ancient queen or a 1940’s jazz singer, the pull of escapism is one that even I’ve fallen into. As an ex-film student, I’ve sat through my fair share of good films, bad films and terrible TV dramas, but over the past month, I’ve consumed more media than I did in my three years at university.
So now I want to share some of my recommendations for you to get stuck into during these times of essential distraction. Some of my picks are a little off the beaten track, but for me, they’re the perfect antedote to these weeks in lockdown.
Starring Lily James and Ansel Elgort, Baby Driver is the story of a young getaway driver forced to work for a crime boss in Atlanta. Directed by the brilliant Edgar Wright, the film is renowned for it’s amazing soundtrack, with both modern and classic tracks blending perfectly to set the scene of the fast-paced adventure. The characters are perfectly written, and there are some fantastically humourous moments from John Hamm that just bring the tone of the film to a great close.
As with every Edgar Wright production, the film is littered with easter eggs to keep an eye out for, and the cyclical nature of his storytelling is spot on throughout. It’s an enjoyable watch and feels like an appropriately vintage film to get your teeth stuck into.
One of my all time favourite films, The History Boys (based on the play by Alan Bennett), features a group of schoolboys preparing to study at Oxford. Entirely introspective and intelligent, the characters and the cast drive the narrative with witty one liners and genuinely interesting discussions on modern education. So many themes are explored in this film, from sexuality and religion to gender equality and child abuse, and as a viewer, you’ll often find yourself both horrified and emotional as the film progresses. With key stars like James Corden, Russell Tovey and Richard Griffiths, the acting is beautifully minimalist and realistic for the setting of Sheffield in the 80’s.
A quiet little film that is heavily understated, yet is so poignant and nostalgic that you’ll be longing for your Sixth Form days in no time.
The King’s Speech, already critically acclaimed for it’s star studded cast, is a true testament to British storytelling. With Colin Firth leading the narrative as the nervous King George VI, struggling to make public speeches with a persistent stammer, it reveals a heartwarming insight into the realities of the royal lifestyle. Touching on some true historical turning points, the film is well paced and enjoyable, and shares some genuine emotional scenes of the men and women behind the monarchy.
Colin Firth really does reveal his acting chops in this film, and it’s a touching watch – particuarly in these times of lockdown, uncertainty and struggle.
Another film quietly released in 2015, and yet highly understated, is Testament of Youth. Following the life of Vera Brittain throughout the first World War, and drawing insights from her personal autobiography, the film shares her life, career and heartbreak as the three men she loves are sent off to war. With some gritty and painful scenes of wartime violence, in contrast to the much softer scenes of romance and love between the main cast, the cinematic quality is spot on.
Personal Note: I’m a little bit of a wartime film buff, and one of the reasons I loved this film so much is that it actually tells the story of women throughout the war. There are so few stories of the struggles of the women left behind, and Testament of Youth touches on the inequality of the storytelling of war, including hints of Vera’s later career as a pacifist activist and author. It’s a great empowering watch, that doesn’t soften or sugarcoat the brutality of war and I can’t recommend it enough.
If you haven’t caught up on the classic Studio Ghibli films over the past few weeks of lockdown, what on earth have you been doing? A comfy, cosy picture to curl up and enjoy in these quieter times, My Neighbour Totoro is such a charming and innocent story that it’s a perfect distraction from the external world. Telling the story of two young sisters who make friends with their neighbourhood spirit Totoro, the film is beautifully animated and elegantly simple in it’s storytelling approach. Walking the line between a children’s film and an adult picture, it’s a stunning and heartwarming creation and one that I turn to in my darkest times of struggle.
Full of imagination, escapism and expert cinematography, it’s a beautiful holiday away for a while and one that everyone should take advantage of.
What’s On The Box : TV Shows
Highlighting the dark, glittering and sinister underworld of financial business through the eyes of two young university students, Clique has been one of my favourite dramas to get stuck into since it’s release in 2017. Full of action, suspense and the gritty world of sexual exploitation, the story feels increasingly real and increasingly awful with each new episode. At times, it’s a painful and gutwrenching watch, paired by heavily heated scenes of sex, drama and honest friendship admist a dirty, crime-ridden backdrop.
With three successful seasons now under it’s belt, the drama only serves to ramp up with each new addition and it’s a great show to binge watch of an evening.
One of the most unexpectedly beloved TV shows to start watching during quarantine has to be Derry Girls. Following the lives of a group of teenagers living in Derry during the troubles, the show is a low maintenance watch, embedded into scenes of real drama, emotion and historical suffering. The comedy is evident throughout and it’s such a relatable watch that you’ll be glued from the very first episode. The core five cast have incredible chemistry and share the uncomfortable, awkward and unpleasant realities of teenagehood in a brutual, unflinching light – but they make it heartwarming and enjoyable to watch too.
With a seemingly endless history of stories to tell, and a new season in the works, there’s no better time to familiarise yourselves with the Derrry Girls before Season 3 arrives.
Gritty crime documentary? Check. The power of the internet? Check. Cats? Check.
Don’t F*** With Cats was one of my standout shows of winter 2019, following the crimes of a young man who committed a series of brutal animal killings on video, and the small band of social media activists who tried to catch him out. The formatting of this document is perhaps one of the best I’ve ever seen and I immediately fell in love with the story itself, as it reveals simply the best and worst of humanity all at once.
It’s a thrilling story and you’ll be hooked from start to finish. With all episodes now on Netflix, it’s a great lockdown watch (although I should mention that there is a trigger warning in place throughout).
Inside No.9 is one of those shows that you just can’t stop watching. A uniquely clever and entertaining weekly programme, the show follows numerous different stories and settings, revealing the goings on behind various door No.9’s. Every episode tells a new story, with the same actors playing many different roles, and can vary from comedic pieces to gritty dramas to thrillers and crime shots. The sheer imagination involved in the show is fantastic, and it’s hard not to be impressed with the creativity of the producers.
With five seasons to get your teeth into, each episode is just as vibrant and engaging as the last. My personal favourite picks: Thinking Out Loud (S5,E5), Death Be Not Proud (S5, E2), La Couchette (S2, E1), Diddle Diddle Dumpling (S3, E5) and The Bill (S3, E2).
I’ve been a Community fan for around 4 years now, and I still can’t stop recommending it. A sitcom surrounding a group of community college students, as well as some zany side characters, who are simply just trying to get their degrees. Incredibly meta and self-aware, the show is funny, witty and such an enjoyable watch with likeable, heartwarming characters and some brilliant cinematic homages thrown in. It’s colourful, binge-worthy and such a fun watch that it’s a pure distraction from lockdown.
With Joel McHale, Childish Gambino, Danny Pudi and Jim Rash making up some of the classic ensemble cast, as well as amazing actresses in Gillian Anderson and Alison Brie, it’s a truly absorbing show that you can’t help falling in love with.
Listen While You Work : Music
With so many of us working from home throughout lockdown, finding the right soundtrack for your day is crucial for staying productive. These recommendations are a mix of simple pleasures, some old classics and some gentle tracks to get you feeling motivated and ready for the day.
Feeling like you’ve been thrown back in time to wartorn Britain? Embrace the historical playback and tune into the beautiful and uplifting tracks of Ella Fitzgerald. With inflections of jazz, blues and soft breathy vocals, there’s something for everyone to listen along to and enjoy.
Need something a little more instrumental to keep you focused? Tom Misch’s mixes are the perfect blend of comforting backing tracks, easy listening songs and repetitive remixes to help you get through the day. Chilled out and relaxed beats with soft vocals and simple rhythms – these songs were the soundtrack of my university years and I wouldn’t have gotten through without them.
For the days when your head feels heavy and overwhelmed with the lockdown, COVID-19 and quarantine, zone out and switch off with The Paper Kites. A little bit folksy, a little bit indie and a little bit instrumental, their songs are light and gentle and can instantly transport you away. The idyllic sounds of a long roadtrip, a quiet dusky evening and a gentle day on the beach, they’re a simple and calming distraction to lose yourself in.
The perfect accompaniment to a quiet working day at home, listening to Bon Iver’s gentle, raspy vocals are a great way to pass the time. With a great combination of uplifting, escapist tracks and quiet, earthy songs to keep you grounded, there’s a little something for every mood. Easy to switch on, and let yourself switch off to.
It’s Saturday morning in lockdown, and all you want is a little burst of sunshine to boost your mood. Stick on George Ezra, and you’ll be feeling better in no time! his bright, catchy summertime songs are a great backing track to your day of productivity and action – whether you’re cleaning, cooking, baking or working out. Bring summer home with George Ezra, and let yourself feel happy again – even if just for a moment.
I hope you enjoyed my choices, and I’d love to know your thoughts. What are some of the films, TV shows and songs you’ve been consuming throughout your lockdown?
Thanks for reading, and stay safe.