What to watch when you need to run away from life for a while

TomasinoWeb
8 min readMay 12, 2023

By Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro

(Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb)

After my last article for a dream news outlet blew up, I was stuck in a writer’s rut for nearly two months. I thought I could perfectly endure the deepening weight of academics while bringing pitches to life. But I became a dehydrated cog in the machine. The pressure to accomplish everything ahead of everyone else in a non-existent race everyday led to terrifying things: a fever, but more importantly — creative burnout.

I was always producing and producing so the once-in-a-blue-moon burnout saddened me. For the first time, there were more incomplete pieces stacked on my notes and pitches I had no drive to execute. But who am I, if I’m not grinding to publish every month?

I didn’t like to admit I was starting to have a hard time. But I had to accept another truth: I needed another escape when my original escape — writing — needed a break. It was uncharacteristic of me to watch shows until I’m finished with everything. But thankfully, I picked up stories I needed to hear at the moment: narratives of flawed characters who needed to redefine their definition of happiness somewhere else, somewhere new. One that wasn’t in the strict confines of school, a job, family, peers, or wealth.

How I wish I could go far, far, away for a bit like the characters in these relaxing and thought-provoking flicks:

1. Summer Strike (2022)

(Photo from Summer Strike (2022)/Netflix))

This Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha-coded K-drama is a healing and compelling story about Yeoreum (Seolhyun), who’s burnt out from unfortunate events in the city life.

Tired from her monotonous routine of going to work and hitting the hay on repeat, she declares a strike against life by quitting her job and not doing anything. She moves to a rural village and meets a quiet local librarian Dae-beom (Im Si-wan), who mirrors her in looking for an escape.

The stress-free beach village she initially envisioned, however, is shrouded in a series of different mysteries with an odd cast of townspeople. Nevertheless, Summer Strike is an underrated love story for those seeking a balance of comfort and puzzles.

2. Call Me Chihiro (2023)

(Photo from Call Me Chihiro (2023)/Netflix))

Coming to terms with our identity and past isn’t rebranding done in a day. In Call Me Chihiro, it takes a lifetime and even meaningful relationships with strangers to slowly unknot the bareness in our hearts.

Chihiro (Kasumi Arimura) is a retired sex worker who leaves her job because of an unforgettable bento meal she adored in a seaside town she visited. She settles in that idyllic town and works at the bento shop, cheerfully befriending the customers and townspeople. Unapologetic about her past, she crafts warmhearted conversations with folks she comes across, offering comfort and contemplation even though she’s lonely herself.

Clichés and suspense are absent throughout, but the slice-of-life film tugs the heart with long dialogues that resonate deeply.

3. Little Forest (2018)

(Photo from Little Forest (2018)/Netflix))

Like the previous dramas mentioned, this protagonist also runs away to the countryside.

Sick from the city’s convenience food, Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) flees from Seoul because she’s “hungry” for real food in her childhood home. However, her true hunger stems from the shame of failing to become a teacher, a dream she shared with her boyfriend.

In her little town that’s a breath of fresh air, she rekindles her friendship with her childhood friends Jae-ha (Ryu Jun-yeol) and Eun-sook (Jin Ki-joo), and together they talk about anything under the sun while cooking, picking strawberries, cycling, planting, laughing, and eating.

Evoking the same warmth of Studio Ghibli films, its romanticization of food and bonds was unfathomably refreshing and pure. With so many analogies on growth and nature, Little Forest is a state of mind that’s made, reminding us of our capacity to nurture mundanities into earnest simplicities.

4. We Made a Beautiful Bouquet (2021)

(Photo from We Made a Beautiful Bouquet (2021))

Although I’m not the biggest romance enthusiast, it is high time to un-gatekeep my number one exception. We Made a Beautiful Bouquet tells the story of two introverts Mugi (Suda Masaki) and Kinu (Kasumi Arimura) who met through a fateful bump when they missed the last train at a station in Tokyo. That night, they sang karaoke, drank, and walked for two hours after midnight until they reached Mugi’s homely unit filled with his sketches and books.

From music taste, favorite authors, habits, and to art installations, they were perfect twin flames who navigated the ups and downs of college, moving, living in, working, and overall growing up.

It’s not a spoiler but it’s painful to say they were established as exes from the start. No one ran away, but they had a complex journey in letting go of the string that was hurting them in the long run. The show is equally intimate, comforting, and painful, just like life.

5. Notting Hill (1999)

(Photo from Notting Hill (1999))

Notting Hill (1999) is a classic American rom-com about an average London bookstore owner William Thacker (Hugh Grant) and a dazzling American actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts). When she appears in his bookstore “undercover,” his mundane life does a 180.

The dynamic between the gorgeous celebrity and the mediocre lad is captivating and entertaining. Despite coming from polar opposite worlds, their desire to get closer and learn about each other’s lives are such amusing and cozy scenes to watch.

Funny, charming, and simple, it’s the perfect flick to watch on a quiet afternoon, on a ride, or on the next bookstore trip.

6. Gilmore Girls (2000)

(Photo from Gilmore Girls (2000))

I do not rewatch any sitcom thrice a year with the exception of Gilmore Girls. And there’s a good reason I choose it over my to-be-watched list. Popular for its no plot, just vibes spirit, there’s actually so much core about the cultural references and quick-witted dialogues of the mix of townspeople of Stars Hollow.

This chronicles the daily misadventures of bubbly and determined single mother Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and her bright and shy 16-year-old daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), whom she had when she was just 16 years old. Like a mother who birthed to her best friend, the duo runs on coffee, and tubs of ice cream, while jamming to music and reading the same books.

Every episode is a wholesome escape from reality. From Rory’s homely bedroom, school, Lorelai’s inn, Luke’s diner, the grocery, the bookstore, and the ballet studio, the gazebo — all the mundane shenanigans and heartbreaks are captured in this fictional town in Connecticut. But aside from the playful sequences, the show tackles miscommunication, generational trauma, rejection, and men in women’s lives.

Character-driven rather than plot-driven, the memorable autumn show will offer unfathomable comfort on a tiring day, with the right episode to pat you on the back.

7. Moral (1989)

(Screengrab from Moral (1989))

In contrast to the mentioned shows and films, Moral sets a darker tone as it recounts the domestic struggles of four women during martial law years. Together, best friends, Joey (Lorna Tolentino), Sylvia (Sandy Andolong), Kathy (Gina Alajar), and Maritess (Anna Marin) struggle to reconcile their roles and desires, translating into individual problems that reflect as collective problems in a patriarchal society.

The feminist classic unsheathed layers of stigma during the 80s including social activism, standards, sexuality, and marital abuse. We see the pressure placed on women in every corner of every industry and the traditional expectations of wives to remain subservient. Ahead of its time, it remains a relevant piece of art that still encompasses both uttered and unuttered issues in the present climate.

In this quintessential ending scene of them on the road, it’s as if the pain in their complex lives has been thrown out the car window. The aching, however, will always linger. It’s something women will always share. However, that doesn’t matter in this fleeting moment; for as long as they’re headed somewhere together, even if the direction is uncertain.

8. One Million Yen Girl

(Screengrab from One Million Yen Girl (2008))

If only I had the guts and money to live a different life by moving to a new place everyday, I would love to live the lifestyle of Suzuko (Yu Aoi) from One Million Yen Girl. Suzuko is a soul-searching and reclusive ex-convict who yearns to escape her worries and those close to her by saving up one million yen.

For someone with an unhealthy fixation on maintenance plans, this film cultured me about how life is not always hunting for the best outcome or place to be. It’s the courage of facing the uncertainty of everything. It’s a popular variation of “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and Suzuko subverts this proverb by appreciating all hues and shades of each place she comes across.

The slow-paced film is accompanied by hazy visuals of the countryside of Japan and a soft musical soundtrack, seasonable for the silent and realistic drama about Suzuko’s whereabouts. It also alluringly delivers a subtle yet illustrious depiction of gender roles in Japanese society.

In theory, running away from responsibilities and awful people may sound nice. But this isn’t to promote that literally dropping everything to flee away is the only choice we have.

Rather, may these stories remind you that when the universe is pulling us in many directions, it’s never profane to pause, enjoy, and or start anew. No one’s keeping track, nothing will be lost, and your days won’t turn upside down if great and happy things are coming your way. After all, everyday is like a new episode.

--

--

TomasinoWeb

The Premier Digital Media Organization of the University of Santo Tomas