The Company of Strangers

The Company of Strangers ★★★★★

The Sally Jane Black Challenge: Watch Strangers in Good Company.

Scavenger Hunt #29: Watch a film from the year one of your parents or guardians was the same age as you are now. (My mom was 28 in 1990).

You know how sometimes you see lists of alternate picks for famous movies? Like, hey, instead of watching this movie check out this similar but lesser known movie instead? This should be the alternate pick for Before Sunrise (one of my all-time favorite films). Both are quiet, beautiful, and honest. Both are structured around normal people simply talking to each other. But Strangers is broader in scope, including more characters and, critically, more perspectives. Where Sunrise is the meeting of an American man and a French woman, Strangers has a literal busload of diversity, including characters of African, Native American, European, and North American history, and also exploring religion, disability, sexuality, and age.

The film opens with a short bus full of older women. I'm not sure how they knew each other or where they were going- it's not important. When their bus breaks during a detour they hike to an abandoned farmhouse and make camp. It is here that most of the movie takes place. The actors in the movie are playing themselves, and they improvise conversations about their real life experiences. They each bring their own personality and skills to their encampment, and create a rather harmonious little commune.

Director Cynthia Scott makes a pretty good argument against modernity in this film. The women have everything they need at this abandoned house in the country, from medicine to food to music to companionship. I don't want to read this aspect of the film in too radical a way- it's unclear how long they could sustain their life there. But certainly there seems to be a legitimate criticism of modern life. When these women have their ties to modern civilization severed, they are still perfectly capable of building, foraging, cooking, playing, and continuing. What's more, they are able to connect with each other in a way that seems dependent on their slowed down circumstances. Through these talks, the women are able to discuss their fears, especially about death. They learn to make peace and find strength and comfort in each other.

This film is beautiful, and criminally underwatched. Please please please seek it out.

P.S. If you watch this film on Hoopla (a streaming service that many libraries subscribe to), you'll see that "People who borrowed this also borrowed:" Blackula. That is almost certainly my fault, since I used Hoopla to watch both of them. The films obvious have nothing in common, and I find the pairing hilarious.

52 Films by Women: 40/52

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