Best Movies about Unemployment — II

 

The Full Monty (1997)

5

Peter Cattaneo’s rib-tickling study of working-class people illustrates Britain’s unemployment and the toll it takes on an individual and his family. The movie follows jobless workers in a major steel industrial city, who all goes for a ridiculous scheme to do a strip act for raising some money. On the surface, it might look like a comedy about the act of male stripping, but beneath the humorous nature, it also deals with themes like parenthood and physical insecurities – that are inherent part of the unemployment. It is predictable, but finds a perfect tone to drive home a valuable message.

 

Drifting Clouds (1996)

4

One of the most celebrated European directors, Aki Kaurismaki’s neo-realist portrayal of Finnish middle-class follows two decent, hard-working couples through their humiliating rounds of job hunting. The gentle absurdist comedy and ahighly-stylized washed-out colors of Kaursimaki expresses the characters isolation from one another in tormented private worlds, but towards the end, the film takes a sudden turn for a happier finale. The film treats the lives, aspirations and anxieties of these less-than-beautiful losers with such unsentimental affection that we care about every one of them.

 

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

3

Vittorio De Sica’s elegant visual poetry is a poverty-unemployment parable that truly deserves to be called a timeless classic. The film follows a young father’s increasingly desperate search through the unfriendly, post-war streets of Rome for the man who has stolen his bicycle — the only source to a dignified life. Although the neo-realistic film deals with poverty, indifference and despair, there is a quiet undercurrent of hope, which draws us into the story with a sheer urgency. The enduring appeal of the film also lies in the very human story at its heart, which focuses on a father-son relationship.

 

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

2

This starkly realistic John Ford movie was one of the best literary adaptations ever (adapted from Pulitzer-prize winning John Steinbeck novel). It remarkably documented the American social tragedy during the depression era, giving its victims a voice through art form. The story follows the ‘Joad’ family, who were forced out of their mid-west homes due to poverty and the whole family packs everything to go find farming jobs in California. The stark plainness of the migrants and their problem with unemployment is still relevant today. Unlike the usual Hollywood product, it is far removed from conventional entertainment and tackles the social problem in a convincing manner.

 

The Last Laugh (1924)

1

Even in the modern days of down-sizing and layoffs, the themes presented in F.W. Murnau’s silent classic seem very relevant. It doesn’t have inter-titles, but a viewer can never be in doubt as to the action of this admirable picture. Emil Jannings, the first Best Actor Oscar winner played a proud hotel doorman, who gets demoted for being too old. The film came during tragic times in Germany, where unemployment was rife and inflation reached farcical levels. This is one of the first movie to depict how much job status ties into a person’s worth. Technically, the film is considered as a great achievement, as Murnau took the camera away from stationary tripod to showcase the ground-breaking expressionistic sequence (however it’s not the first movie to use to moving camera).

 

Other notable films: Falling Down (1993), The Company Men (2010), Everything Must Go (2010), Mr. Mom (1983), Lost in America (1985)

 

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