The 2023 Chippies: The Best Films of the Year with Midlife Themes

December 28, 2023

The 2023 Chippies: The Best Films of the Year with Midlife Themes

May 29, 2023

Last year, I offered my top 5 films of 2022 (https://bit.ly/48BsBCD), but we hadn’t coined the term “Chippies” yet. This year’s Chippies crop is exclusively focused on films with themes that feel straight out of MEA. This doesn’t mean they’re my favorite films of 2023 as I loved “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Oppenheimer,” but these are the top 5 with midlife themes. I’ve listed these in my order of preference.

  1. Past Lives”: As with many of the films listed, there’s a longing and a wistfulness woven into these middle age stories. My heart ached watching this poignant tale of two lovestruck Korean teenagers who are separated when the girl’s family moves to Toronto. The core of the film is the reuniting of these two lovebirds twenty-four years later in NYC, but their lives have changed so much that, while there’s clearly still a soulful spark, there’s too much water under the bridge in this lifetime. Sad, poignant, and beautiful in that early midlife kind of way when you’re letting go of dreams. 

  1. All of Us Strangers”: This lovely, liminal, London-based film knocked my socks off due to its deep themes: the soul longing for the impossible, the wounds of childhood casting a shadow on adulthood, learning to surrender to love, the desire to have an adult relationship with our parents (even if they’re no longer living). The expressive, melancholy lead actor Andrew Scott learns how to reveal himself to his dead parents in ways he never could have as a child which is the gateway to creating love and intimacy in his romantic life. Let this film have its way with you. And, who can fault a film that ends with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “The Power of Love”? 

  1. Anatomy of a Fall”: When someone dies suspiciously, the police detectives do all kinds of physical forensic testing, but this film is about the intangible emotional forensic testing of a midlife marriage on trial for everyone to witness. Sandra Hüller may earn a Best Actress Oscar for her superb acting as the wife who is as stoic, remote, and powerful as the French Alps where the story takes place.

  1. One Thousand and One”: You probably haven’t heard of this film and may not think it has midlife themes, but it won this year’s Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize. It also tracks the personal tale of a hairdresser who is a convicted thief trying to raise her son in Harlem during a 15-year-period that starts in the early ‘90s and takes her up to her midlife. It’s a story of responsibility and redemption and is a morality tale that gives you a flavor of midlife on the streets without privilege. Sounds tough to watch, but there’s an unvarnished moral beauty in this film.

  1. Nyad”: I was trying to determine if I’d choose this film or “May December,” two films that I didn’t love but have compelling female, rebellious characters in midlife. Both films are based upon real life stories, but I’m choosing Diana Nyad’s story (with Annette Bening and Jodie Foster) of being the first to swim from Cuba to Key West (and doing it in her 60s) because it’s an inspiration for all of us who feel our bodies are giving up on us in midlife. I hope to track down Diana to lead an MEA workshop one day. 

-Chip

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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