Sometimes there is nothing better than a good cathartic cry. Seriously, how good does it feel to have a “flash sob” once in a while? Every day we walk around with inner dams that keep our emotions at bay, for the sake of social graces and not to drive our loved ones crazy, but what about us? What if we need to release that dam every now and then — say, once a week — to maintain our emotional sanity? I’m not crying, you’re crying! I mean, that’s why it feels so good to watch YouTube videos of dogs reuniting with their military owners home from tour, or why we occasionally indulge in a Nicholas Sparks movie (no judgment here). So we get it. And that’s why we’ve rounded up our top five poignant stories that will help you get it all out. (Hey, it’s certainly cheaper than therapy).
In “The Virtues,” Stephen Graham (you may have seen him in Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch”) plays Joseph, a human raw nerve who is one pint away from losing his sh*t. And we can’t blame him. After experiencing some serious trauma as a child in the care system in Ireland, he starts a nice little family in England, only to have his ex and son move across the world from him. I’d probably go on a bender too. But after Joseph’s hangover wears off, he decides to return to Ireland to confront his ugly past. Graham’s performance is so insanely good you will feel his every emotion, and you’ll definitely root for him when he meets a cute girl who is just as broken as him. Cue uplifting redemption music!
Just reading the premise might make you tear up. Edith and Eddie are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds, but their story is far from celebratory. The documentary delivers issues of familial estrangement and the shortcomings of the American justice system in equally devastating blows. Full disclaimer: you will probably feel every bad emotion on the spectrum — heartbreak, anger, pure rage, shout-inducing frustration — but ultimately, you will be glad to have witnessed the story of “Edith+Eddie.” They say the best way to manage your own stress is by channeling your frustrations into another outlet, so here you go.
If you went to a liberal arts college, then you were probably obsessed with Haruki Murakami at some point, maybe around sophomore year or so? If this was you, then you will absolutely adore this dreamy Japanese romance that smacks tenderly of a Murakami novel. Asako’s first love is intense and life-changing, but the boy completely ghosts her. Years later, she meets another man who looks exactly like her first love but has a completely different personality. OK, that’s manageable. Asako learns to love him and they make a happy life together. But nope, first guy’s gotta complicate everything by showing up one day out of nowhere. A mystical story told with utter realism, “Asako I & II” will make you question your own definition of love. The dual-identity theme seems to serve as an allegory for the fluid and multifaceted relationship between love and interpretation — not only does love have multiple definitions, but it can define you in different ways.
There is nothing that will bring a grown man to his knees with tears flowing down his face than a moving dog story (cue the aforementioned YouTube videos). So you’ve been warned: do not watch this documentary without a box of tissues within reach. But just don’t expect “Homeward Bound.” “Buddy” is a touching, authentic portrait of six service dogs and their respective owners, deftly capturing each relationship with love and care, but none of the sap. Even though filmmaker Heddy Honigmann asks each of the owners what their dogs mean to them, it’s clear from their stories that the deep bond between man and dog is unspeakable. You will definitely hug your pet a little tighter after watching this, even if your pet is a cat who wouldn’t so much as respond to your greeting, let alone act as your limbs.
Oof. This is a tough one. We’re all afraid of dying, to some degree. If you say otherwise, you’re only in denial. Though “End of Life” explores the heavy subject of death, it also achieves something unimaginable: it illuminates the beauty of dying. Filmed over four years in hospital rooms, homes, and workplaces, the documentary follows five people at the end of their lives. In seeing how these individuals grapple with their mortality, you will be prompted to reflect on your own, but, amazingly, it won’t feel morbid or depressing. “End of Life” offers a surprising perspective: that one’s life can be incredibly enriching when it’s near the end. Just as long as the end is decades and decades from now...
In our society, men are taught from a young age that it’s not “manly” to cry or show emotion. Listen up, parents: stop that. This is a dangerous notion that needs to be dismantled entirely. If you don’t agree, watch “The Work.” Set in a single room inside Folsom Prison, the documentary captures a four-day group therapy retreat with level-four convicts and three men from outside who sit in. What unfolds inside this prison room will completely disarm you. The way the inmates talk about their emotions and their thoughts on rehabilitation feels like a liberation from gender expectations and societal norms, making the viewer rethink who in that room is truly free. At the very least, you will completely forget your preconceived notions about these men. And you will probably cry, a lot. Which is 100% OK.