Deserted discs – Five films about isolation for the isolated
We’re all a little tense while the COVID-19 epidemic refuses to let up: the widespread lockdown of movement has had us staring at four walls like Charles Bronson. However, on one of those walls, you’ll find what is inevitably your main source of entertainment. But is it worth watching an episode of a series obliviously? Or are there other avenues to explore, visiting films that can either lighten or enlighten us on our current predicament? Welcome to my list: five films featuring five examples of isolation. You decide which suits our chaotic circumstance best.
Let’s start off light-hearted: a film about two criminals attacking a child that’s been left behind by his disordered family. No, but seriously, this family-friendly Chris Columbus comedy caper highlights the creativity that can be birthed from quarantine.
Utilising plausible tricks, such as oil slick on the stairs, as well as imaginative death traps like Matchbox cars littering the hallway, protagonist Kevin McAllister (Macauley Culkin) defends his family’s house as though he were a sentry on the Korean border. Not that his abandonment causes him any trauma – his positivity, running riot around the house and tucking into whatever food he likes, may not be the recommended dietary and mental attitude from doctors, but certainly seems attractive in a way only Hollywood can achieve.
Escape for a few hours: if a kid can independently motivate himself that confidently, it should be a cinch for the rest of us.
The Breakfast Club
The mighty John Hughes had a thing for isolation it seems: having produced and scripted Home Alone, his matching credits (with a directorial credit to boot) for The Breakfast Club bring him back to a secluded setting.
However, there’s no breaking and entering, no attempted infanticide. While it does share some of the abysmal parenting of Home Alone, The Breakfast Club is an entirely different beast: marijuana features, for example, which certainly would have tested Home Alone’s certification should Kevin have lit the blunt end.
But its solitary scenario is actually used to interesting effect: a detention, wherein members of various cliques (an 80s rogue gallery that includes Emilio Estevez and Molly Ringwald) are forced together and begin to communicate. A lot like how our disparate families, typically drawn apart by school, work and Fortnite, have suddenly been forced together for the foreseeable future. Perhaps The Breakfast Club can inspire some domestic bonding for the better?
The Hateful Eight
Then again, if you’re feeling like you want to murder your relatives/housemates, maybe The Hateful Eight is more fitting. Mirroring The Breakfast Club’s grouping scenario, eight strangers find themselves shacked up together in a haberdashery during a heavy snowstorm, slowly discovering that they’re all as equally dangerous to each other and that not all is as it seems.
Unlike The Breakfast Club, this is directed by Quentin Tarantino: mommy and daddy issues are the least of the characters’ concerns. With each stranger exhibiting their own suspicious feature – an exaggerated British accent for Tim Roth’s Oswaldo Mowbray, or a racist streak in Bruce Dern’s Confederate General Smithers that puts him at odds with Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Warren – and it’s no wonder that they all start drawing their revolvers. Now, I’m in no way endorsing a similar solution for your household. But, if you’re still unsure as to who forgot to flush, maybe The Hateful Eight will boost your investigative spirits?
Feeling too optimistic? Perhaps an injection of sombre suffering might help steady your ship? Then look no further than Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried, a Ryan Reynolds vehicle before he was known for his creative metaphors and Deadpool suit. The title isn’t one of those metaphors: Reynolds’ Paul Conroy really is buried, in a coffin, equipped with a phone with a weak signal and a lighter.
It doesn’t sound like the recipe for excitement in response to our tedium, but Buried actually digs deep into the setup, mining it for tension and thrills. More so, you’ll come out really appreciating the simpler things in life: no more complaining about weak O2 reception; smokers suddenly feel empowered by their Zippo; oxygen becomes addictive. Buried – lock yourself in for a nail-biting ride.
Slow motion. Martial arts. Guns, lots of guns. The Matrix is an action film through and through; it just happens to be about being trapped in a prison and escaping it. Yes, Neo (Keanu Reeves) experiences the worst case of isolation thus far: sure, Reynolds found himself in a sealed case, but finding yourself locked in your own brain? Talk about being one’s own worst enemy.
What follows is your reason to watch this during quarantine. The Wachowskis do direct the hell out of this, turning in some iconic scenes (every hotel hallway has appeared to me as a potential playground for Matrix-esque destruction). And yet, the exhilaration is all part of the main narrative push: breaking out of The Matrix, a simulation and a shade of real life created by a race of killer ‘Machines’ that use human flesh and organs to power their core functions. Swap the Machines out for coronavirus cells, excuse yourself of all of the physical fighting so you don’t damage something, and you’ve got a film to loosely relate to.
The exhilaration of leaving our homes once this has passed will feel all too familiar after seeing Neo and company break free. Until then, fight the fight by staying indoors: use the film as its own simulation for how you wish you could respond to the virus.
What are your picks for films about isolation? And what films are actually helping you get through isolation? Leave some feedback and let me know! If you liked the article, subscribe to the website! I'll keep you updated on all of the latest posts. And follow The Film Foyer on social media! All of the links can be found in the feedback form at the bottom of the page.