Spring Awakenings: 5 Movies About Reinvention 

From Jane Eyre to Beginners, films that give us a little hope

The English philosopher Bernard Williams quipped, “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.” This spring, as the first daffodils and crocus bravely raise their heads up out of the soil, we celebrate that spirit of hope, that primal belief in the potential for change and new beginnings. For Charlize Theron’s character in Jason Reitman’s new film Tully, hope literally knocks on the door in the shape of a night nurse (Mackenzie Davis) ready to help out a beleaguered mom.

To celebrate the coming of Spring, we’re re-watching some of our favorite films about people discovering hope when they least expect it and finding their way when they are most lost. From a frightened governess finding love to a Danish painter embracing a new identity, here are movies that demonstrate that everything changes. 

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See Charlize Theron find a glimpse of hope in the official trailer for Tully.

Jane Eyre | Spring in her heart

In bringing Charlotte Brontë’s beloved novel Jane Eyre to the screen, director Cary Fukunaga let the changing weather and landscape help him dramatize the arduous journey of the film’s famous orphan (played by Mia Wasikowska). “Passionate outbursts arrive with thunderous storms, love is delivered in sun-drenched spring mornings, and windswept desolate moors are perfect for anguish and despair,” notes one film blog. But Jane weathers every misstep and misfortune to find a way back to her beloved Rochester (Michael Fassbender). For screenwriter Moira Buffini, it is Jane’s indomitable spirit that have made people continually fall in love with her story: “When you read this book when you are down—whether you are young, old, man, woman—it is a book that will sustain you and give you hope."

Get Jane Eyre now on iTunes or at Amazon.

Jane and Rochester find love in the official trailer for Jane Eyre

The Danish Girl | Reinventing oneself

Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), the protagonist of Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, found a new beginning when she transitioned from male to female at a time when the idea, let alone the procedures, were almost unheard of. Born Einar Wegener and married to Gerda (Alicia Vikander), Lili begins to feel the figure in the mirror doesn’t represent the person inside. As she begins her remarkable transition, her relation to Gerda is also transformed into a different kind of love, one of support and acceptance. For USA Today, “Watching Redmayne’s character blossom into her true self is remarkable, and the awkwardness getting there only helps make it more relatable.”

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Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander capture the resilience of hope in the official trailer for The Danish Girl.

The World’s End | Letting go of the past

In Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, Gary King (Simon Pegg) is stuck in the past, constantly wanting to relive his teenage glories when getting wasted was still cool. Now an adult and just out of rehab, Gary strong-arms his old gang, which includes his best bud Nick Frost, to reattempt their hometown’s twelve-pub crawl that they failed to complete many years ago. For Wright, “The cautionary tale in the movie should be that you should never, ever want to go back because the past is a disaster.” While the film seems to be all about endings—The World’s End, the final installment of The Cornetto Trilogy, mankind’s last hurrah—it is just as much about starting over and moving forward with your life. As New York Magazine notes, “How many apocalyptic sci-fi action extravaganzas leave you feeling as if the world is just beginning?”

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Gary King (Simon Pegg) gets a second chance in the official trailer for The World's End.

The Place Beyond the Pines | Breaking the cycle

If Derek Cianfrance’s epic crime story The Place Beyond the Pines starts by exploring how the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons, it ends with a sense of hope and possibility. Structured as a cinematic triptych, the film's first two sections follow the fates of Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber, and Avery (Bradley Cooper), a cop whose ambition pushes him to become the district attorney. In the third part, the two men’s sons (Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen) have to decide, each in their own way, how much the past will define their futures. For The Los Angeles Times, the film showcases “lives we too rarely see and a kind of heartbreak that is rarer still—moving, evocative and even a little hopeful.”

Get The Place Beyond The Pines now on iTunes or at Amazon.

Ryan Gosling leads the way in the official trailer for The Place Beyond the Pines.

Beginners | Forever young

Released in late spring, Mike MillsBeginners lives up to its name with its characters constantly reinventing themselves. Inspired by Mills’ own father, who came out of the closet later in life, the film follows Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a graphic artist dealing with his on-again, off-again relationship with a French actress (Mélanie Laurent), as he remembers the jubilant example his own father (Christopher Plummer) set for him. Filled with flashbacks, talking dogs, historical montages, and a roller-skating dance number, the film constantly reinvents itself while never losing sight of the past. For Entertainment Weekly, Beginners teaches us “about the opportunity to remodel one’s life, at any age, to make more room for happiness.” As if to prove its own point, an 82-year-old Plummer became the oldest actor to win an Academy Award® for his supporting role in the film.

Get Beginners now on iTunes or at Amazon.

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor start over in the official trailer for Beginners.

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