Some life experiences completely transcend cultural, geographical, linguistic, and the myriad other boundaries dividing humanity. Reunions, it's safe to assume, more than likely fall underneath this broad umbrella. Not every individual out there will necessarily know one in their lifetime, whether planned or entirely unexpected, but the vast majority probably do — or at least will in the future. So often associated with schoolmates and families, the concept actually stretches to include any interpersonal relationship imaginable. Filmmakers hoping to capture this very human, very emotional tableau have a lush banquet of options available when exploring its intricacies. They can launch it to joyous heights or drag their characters down deeper than the Marianas Trench. And they do.
The Big Chill dir. Lawrence Kasdan:
Many cinephiles consider this baby boomer classic the quintessential American reunion film, partly because of the rockin' soundtrack and partly because of the butt-kicking cast with Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, and more. Following the suicide of a close college friend 15 years after graduation, the now-thirty-somethings convene at his funeral, reminiscing on good times and how everything changed once school finally ended. Despite some potentially damaging secrets and lies popping to the forefront of their reunion, they ultimately come together in some unexpected ways.
Tokyo monogatari dir. Yasujiro Ozu:
Not every reunion, unfortunately, proves as warm and fuzzy as The Big Chill. Known in English as Tokyo Story, this sad, quiet film from 1953 stands as one of director Yasujiro Ozu's most embraced masterpieces. It follows the story of an elderly couple traveling to the eponymous metropolis, joyous at the prospect of sharing time with their beloved children. Once they reach their destination, however, their reality begins splintering when they find themselves largely neglected. Their daughter-in-law Noriko, a widow, shows them the kindness and respect they expected, but it doesn't serve as a balm for their own biologicals' stinging rejection.
Before Sunset dir. Richard Linklater:
One doesn't have to watch Before Sunrise to appreciate eclectic director Richard Linklater's gorgeously romantic sequel, but it certainly helps. Taking place nine years after the first movie, protagonists Celine and Jesse run into one another while the latter stops in Paris on a book tour. Both still carry pretty heavy emotions from their earlier Vienna rendezvous, spending this much-anticipated second chance exchanging dissatisfaction with their love lives. Despite successes in other (particularly professional) areas, they just can't quit each other.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion dir. David Mirkin:
In this belly-bursting comedy, a pair of doltish but endearingly upbeat women prepare for their 10-year high school reunion. Terrified over the prospect of being perceived as loser as they were back in those awkward teenage years, they brew up an elaborate (and hilarious) lie about inventing Post-It Notes and special adhesives. In the end, though, all they have to do to show up the bullies what once terrorized them is simply act like their own quirky, bubbly selves.
Nun va Goldoon dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf:
Real events in director Mohsen Makhmalbaf inspired his deeply personal tale of twenty years between a confrontation and an attempted resolution. A teenage boy stabs a policeman during a rally protesting the shah, ending up jailed for half a decade. Over time, his ratcheting regret and guilt lead him to seek out his victim and forge peace between them. English-speaking audiences will likely find this heavy, emotional example of Iranian new wave cinema under the title A Moment of Innocence.
Slumdog Millionaire dir. Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan:
Highly controversial and thoroughly decorated, Slumdog Millionaire exists as both a brutally visceral look at Indian poverty and charming story of rekindling lost love. Police interrogate a young man for his Who Wants to be a Millionaire? acumen, startled that a "simple" street kid could possess such knowledge, and the narrative flashes back to how his squalid, inhumane surroundings made it happen. All hero Jamal Malik wants is a reunion with his beloved childhood friend and love interest Latika, realizing that down such a road lay death and despair.
The Best Years of Our Lives dir. William Wyler:
American troops returning home from World War II must adjust to their brand new lives following violent experiences. Long before Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder received recognition as a serious condition plaguing so many servicemen and women, the Best Picture winner dissected the wrenching difficulties associated with acclimating to home after knowing war. Reunited with friends and family — and making new ones — leads them in directions they never anticipated.
Solaris dir. Steven Soderbergh:
Fans of quiet, ponderous science fiction films in the Kubrickian tradition might want to check out Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel of the same name. Here, a bizarre celestial entity grants astronauts a second chance at establishing closure with loved ones. In the case of the central psychologist played by George Clooney, this means falling for a replica of his wife, dead by suicide. He believes their reunion, however shallow and suspicious his peers find the situation, offers him an opportunity to reconcile where everything went wrong.
Efter brylluppet dir. Susanne Bier:
While returning to his native Denmark chasing funds for the near-bankrupt Indian orphanage in which he works, a harried manager encounters a cheating ex after 20 years apart. Both attend the wedding of a manipulative CEO's daughter — alleged daughter, anyways. It certainly raises questions regarding whether or not one can reunite with someone he or she never even knew existed. The English-speaking audiences out there can find this film under the title After the Wedding.
The Wrestler dir. Darren Aronofsky:
Although primarily about redemption and identity reclamation, Darren Aronofsky's intense masterpiece frequently peers into the awkward loneliness of filial estrangement. Disgraced wrestler Robin Razminski (also known as Randy "The Ram" Robinson) wants to establish a connection with the adult daughter he ditched while she was still very young. Their reunion, as one can easily imagine, involves numerous serious fissures, and what ultimately transpires showcases the tragic possibilities behind earnest reconciliation attempts.