(Fair warning: The movie trailers play automatically, so you might want to turn your volume off for this list!)
Every year I ask myself: have we finally moved past Valentine’s Day? If you’re in a relationship, it’s a stress-filled day about proving your love via consumerism. If you’re single, then you’re just not even invited. For me, Valentine’s Day is the yearly reminder that life has gone straight downhill since preschool. You know, back when I was adored/worshipped by all my classmates who expressed their love for me in the form of glittery, handmade cards. (Okay, I know that it was required to send a card to everyone in the class, but please just let me have this.)
Personally, I can’t stomach another Valentine’s Day, especially in this climate. If you’re with me, let’s reclaim this day and turn it into something we all can get behind: Galentine’s Day! How could you not love a day all about the power of female friendship?
So often overlooked in favour of romantic relationships, friendship is a powerful force that sustains us through support, love, and understanding. On Galentine’s Day (February 13th), you don’t need to prove your love in the form of a dozen roses, but of course, you can still partake in the best part of the day: buying a cartful of chocolate from the Dollarama Valentine’s Day aisle. Since we can’t have brunches as Galentine’s day founder Leslie Knope intended this year, I’ve compiled a list of movies from diverse genres that centre stories of women’s friendships to get in the “holiday” spirit.
If you’re in the mood for a thriller that speaks to the dark underbelly of society… Promising Young Woman (2020)
Cassie (Carey Mulligan), a reserved barista in her mid-thirties, still lives in her childhood bedroom and doesn’t have many friends. At night, she pretends to be wasted at bars, waiting for the inevitable creep to try to take advantage of her. Despite her obvious inebriation and her verbal refusal, the men advance, and Cassie sits up alert, exposing their sex crimes and sending the men spiraling into a tirade of self-preservation. Cassie’s mission to expose sexual predators is rooted in trauma and a desire to seek revenge for her best friend, Nina, who was a victim of rape, ultimately leading to her death. Director Emerald Fennell seamlessly weaves her story through various genres, including the thriller and the dark comedy, and even taps into familiar rom-com tropes with the genius casting of Bo Burnham, who you can’t help but be charmed by. Fennell reveals the inner workings of rape culture from the myth of the faultless “nice guy,” to condemning women who refuse to denounce the guilty men in their life. At the root of it all, Promising Young Woman portrays the deep friendship between Cassie and Nina, the incurable pain Nina’s loss causes, and the solidarity that exists between women living in a world where perpetrators continue to be valued over victims of sexual assault.
If you’re craving an adventure during COVID-19 lockdowns… Thelma and Louise (1991)
Two best gal friends hit the road for a weekend getaway in an attempt to escape the boredom of their lives. Thelma (Geena Davis) is an unfulfilled housewife with an emotionally abusive husband, and Louise (Susan Sarandon) works long hours as a waitress, dating a non-committal musician on the side. Their getaway quickly changes course when Louise shoots a man she catches trying to rape Thelma. In classic American road movie fashion, the women fugitives drive through small towns and across vast countryscapes, figuring things out as they go. Once they get a taste of freedom, they know they can’t give it up for anything, even if it means fleeing for their lives. Funny, thrilling, and an empowering statement about female friendship, you cannot go wrong with director Ridley Scott’s classic Thelma and Louise. And that’s all without mentioning that it also features a handsome young Brad Pitt in a full denim fit and a cowboy hat.
When you want to laugh with your best friends from high school… Booksmart (2019)
It’s the last day of high school, and overachiever lifelong BFFs Amy (Kaitlyn Denver) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have achieved their goal of getting into Ivy League schools but missed out on a core rite of passage: the high school party. The not-so-popular girls can’t just walk through the front door of the party, they need a scheme. Although Amy resists at first, Molly calls a “Malala,” their opposite of a safe word, asking Amy to go on the journey to the party with her. The call sets off a night of facing all kinds of obstacles to get to the elusive grad party: blackmailing a pizza delivery man for the address, having a bad trip at a murder mystery party that results in an eccentric hallucination scene, and even more shenanigans. All odds are against them, but they finally make it to the party where they continue to cram the quintessential high school experiences into one night, culminating in a blow-up fight and even a trip to the police station (but don’t worry, all is well at graduation the next morning). Booksmart centres on the importance of best gal friends, celebrates female sexuality on women’s own terms, and gives us an excellent, multi-layered lesbian teen character in Amy. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is fresh and heartwarming. Each shot is filled with compassion and humour, making it endlessly rewatchable.
Transport yourself to the Women’s Liberation Movement in 1970s France with… One Sings The Other Doesn’t (1977)
Agnès Varda’s glorious film follows Pomme (Valérie Mairesse) and Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard) over the course of their friendship. The two women are in different situations when they meet: Pomme yearns to break free from her uptight middle-class family, and Suzanne is struggling to stay afloat with two kids, one on the way, and a husband suffering from his own demons. When the two women meet, they quickly develop a meaningful friendship as Pomme helps Suzanne get an abortion. The two women are separated but miraculously find each other again at a rally for abortion rights where they have developed into their adult selves. Suzanne now works at a family planning clinic and Pomme is a member of a blazing feminist folk singing group. The story follows their lives and adventures mostly told through the postcards they send each other. They write through the ups and downs of romantic relationships, pregnancies, protests, and performances. The one constant is the love and solidarity they have with each other. Bursting with colours both soft and bright, the film embraces a 1970s feminine aesthetic with a vibrancy that makes it pure bliss to watch. One Sings The Other Doesn’t boldly makes a case for women’s liberation and the solidarity women have with each other, even if their approaches to feminism may look different.
If you’re looking for a story that celebrates friendship between Black, transgender women… Tangerine (2015)
On Christmas Eve after spending 28 days in prison, Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), a transgender sex worker, is back on the street. While meeting her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), also a transgender sex worker, at a donut shop, she finds out that her boyfriend Chester has been cheating on her with a cisgender woman. The film races after Sin-Dee as she scours the neighborhood for Chester and his new girlfriend. As the search goes on, some of the most profound moments occur in scenes between Sin-Dee and Alexandra: one where Sin-Dee cheers Alexandra on during her performance to an otherwise empty audience, and a striking final scene in which Alexandra takes care of Sin-Dee after she is brutally harassed, lending Sin-Dee her wig in an act of tenderness and support. Shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, the film is fast-paced, constantly in motion, and the saturated colours highlight the entrancing spunk of the characters. Filled with both funny moments and sincerity, director Sean Baker brings you into Sin-Dee and Alexandra’s world through an exploration of their ride-or-die friendship.
I hope you found a movie that piques your interest for this Galentine’s Day! If not, luckily there are tons of incredible options to choose from (it was very hard not to include all three Cheetah Girls movies on this list, for example.) I hope you have a happy Galentine’s or Valentine’s Day, whichever you celebrate, and remember that boxes of chocolate are for everyone!