Written by Filipa Henriques.

2019 is the last year we have before entering the roaring twenties again. In such a postmodern world, mumblecore cinema has an ever growing significance. We live surrounded by noise, dating apps, a college degree that doesn’t pay the rent and a full time job we keep to buy nice shoes and a few cocktails. In the end of the day it’s good to feel we are not alone in the chaos. Mumblecore stands for cinema as lo-fi stands for music.

According to the Urban Dictionary, mumblecore is “a group of filmmakers who make performance-based films that focus on the everyday problems, often about relationships of middle-class twentysomethings.” Mumblecore is not about the world, it’s about the people and that’s the magic of these stories that are sometimes a little bit difficult to approach.

Lady Bird (2017)

A great (and very well known) example of a mumblecore film about something that keeps us awake at night - love - is 500 Days of Summer (2009). Why is it described as mumblecore, you would ask? In the first minutes of the film we hear a dark voice saying: this is not a love story, this is a story about love. In a world full of love stories, it feels like a breath of fresh air to enter a story where we find a more human and less perfect ending. During the almost 100 minutes of the film we get happy, sad, comfortable and, in the end, we feel understood.

500 Days of Summer (2009)

If there’s someone we need to speak of when we think of mumblecore is Noah Baumbach. From Frances Ha (2012) to The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), we can easily see that the director has a growing humor and irony in the way he sees and speaks about the world and the most common human relationships. An idea that for me is always connected with this type of cinema is that everything can be falling apart but someone will make a joke about it - and that’s something Baumbach manages very well.

Frances Ha (2012)

If in Frances Ha we got impressed by the way Greta Gerwig goes through the distress of the beginning of adulthood, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller performing (very good) funny characters in the The Meyerowitz Stories just made us believe in humor and family again.  

The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)

The majority of mumblecore films have this coming of age sense - in Obvious Child (2014) we go through a long journey of growing with Jenny Slate; in Lady Bird (2017) we have the transition between highschool and college, the deconstruction of the first love, the bridges we start to create with our family. All these films, talking about different issues and being performed and directed by different people, have the same thing in common - the willing to be real, to be human.

Obvious Child (2014)

Lena Dunham (Hannah) in the awarded - unfortunately gone - series Girls (2012) once said I’m an individual and I feel how I feel when I feel it, which is a very good summary of mumblecore films and why we need them - to learn how to feel and to express better the way we feel, without being afraid of a non perfect way of feeling.

Check out Nerdwriter's video essay on realistic dialogue on The Meyerowitz Stories:

Filipa Henriques works at Portugal Film - Portuguese Film Agency, an institution for the advancement and widespread reach of Portuguese independent cinema. Her studies started in the North of Portugal at Universidade do Minho and continued onto a semester in France's Paris Descartes and a masters' degree in Lisbon's Nova FCSH. After interning at the world renowned film festival IndieLisboa and the documentary film oriented Apordoc - Associação pelo Documentário, she started work at Portugal Film two years ago. She is now completing her studies with a second masters' degree at ISCTE on the Arts' Markets and recently started to collaborate with the IndieMusic selection committee at IndieLisboa. 

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