With awards season underway, we’re looking back at the past year in film and reflecting on the ways that movies affect how we view ourselves and the world around us. Here are a few folks in our community reflecting on the films that impacted them this year.

Lady Bird

“Greta Gerwig infused Lady Bird with such honesty about the adolescent struggle towards adulthood and differentiation. While the relationship (and Oscar-nominated performances) between mother (Laurie Metcalf) and daughter (Saoirse Ronan) were painful to watch, the film ultimately reveals how transcendent grace notes can transform even the most fraught situations into something beautiful.”
Dr. Craig Detweiler, President


Coco is at the top of my favorite movies this year—it’s a beautiful, compelling film both visually and narratively. When I saw it in the theater, I was surrounded by Mexican-American families and got to hear little kids react to seeing stories and traditions that they know well being shared on the screen. It was a powerful way to imagine how we tell the stories that shape us, and how we think about family in bigger ways.”
Rachael Clinton, Assistant Director of Program Development and Admissions for The Allender Center

The Florida Project

“In a candy-colored but slightly seedy motel near Disney World lives a bright, cheerful, energetic young girl who runs wild with  her friends through what looks like paradise to the children. She lives with her young mother who is barely managing to support them by begging, petty theft, and  hustling. It is a dark and grim story told through the joyful loving eyes of a child that made me re-think what constitutes good parenting.”
Mary Rainwater, Library Specialist

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is yet another brilliant example of director Guillermo Del Toro’s use of the language of fairytale and fantasy to tell a story of resistance to power. In his films the monsters tell us what it means to be human, while some humans show us what it means to be monsters. This film engages themes of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and American exceptionalism while asking the age old question: what does it mean to be human, particularly in troubling times?”
Brittany Deininger (MA in Theology & Culture, ‘17), Assistant Instructor

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

“I’ve always found that if I examine something, it’s less scary,” says Joan Didion in this documentary about her life and work. Didion writes with clarity, insight, and the curiosity of an unflinching reporter, whether exploring individual grief or collective fragmentation. This film begins to show how those two callings—rigorous personal examination and prophetic social commentary—can thrive so deeply in one brave, brilliant woman.”
Beau Denton (MA in Counseling Psychology, ‘17), Content Curator