Like a great blues ballad or country song, sad movies can make us feel like we’re not alone. They can also provide the catharsis. Or just wallow. A sad movie, though, isn’t quite the same thing as a feel-bad movie: Beaches might make you cry, but something like The Road, on the other hand, can shatter your fundamental sense that the world is a place where good is possible. They’re not fun, though they can be darkly comic, but they are challenging; and therein lies the appeal. In a landscape of blockbusters designed to measure for us that everything is fine and that our worlds are fundamentally safe for shopping, it can oddly thrilling when that rug is pulled out for under us.
It’s also nice to feel validated: It’s not a complete picture, but there are plenty of things in the world to feel quite bad about. There are legitimate reasons to feel angry, and afraid, and chipper summer blockbusters can sometimes feel like gaslighting. These movies won’t make you feel better about much of anything, but they will absolutely pat you on the shoulder and remind you that you’re right to feel that plenty of things have gone wrong.
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