Last week I came across Amanda Arnold’s recent Lit Hub piece, “Why Literature and Pop Culture Still Can’t Get the Midwest Right.” As a born-Midwesterner, I instantly and intuitively understood what she meant by her title. Her ideas stayed with me, and the more I thought about it, the easier it was to think of pop culture—movies, TV, books—that missed the mark and managed to make unfamiliar terrain out of my everyday experience. Turns out there are too many of those to count (and what fun is that anyway?).
So, instead, what about the films that got home right? I had a few ideas of my own, but I was more interested in what some of the others writers here at Audiences Everywhere and our readers had to say; Not only are we spread across the globe, we’re working within a broad definition of home. Home isn’t always where we were born, or where we stayed, but certain films manage to occupy that liminal space between here and wherever “there” is. Here’s what they (and you) had to say:
Fubar/Fubar 2 (2002/2010)
It’s hard to choose a film that represents anywhere in Canada, a country notorious for dressing up as someplace else in movies. It’s an enormous, underpopulated land, but since I am from the prairies, that’s where my reflection lies. Edmonton and its surrounding area is a cold, slushy brown and grey. It’s a place you’re from, not a place you visit. But it has its charm, and its harsh winters seem to cultivate good people, neighbours who have your back, and bonfire parties galore. I’ve heard my home city described as a “dumpster full of diamonds”, or the city with two seasons: winter and construction. Some might be put off by the suggestion that Fubar (filmed in Calgary) and Fubar 2 (Filmed in Edmonton and based around the infamous working man’s journey to the urban service area, Fort McMurray) are movies that get central Alberta right, but no matter how you feel about it, the truth is the truth. Watch a couple of hockey-haired headbangers shotgunning beer and talking about oil and classic rock, and you have most of my childhood memories. They’re just regular guys getting into regular trouble and givin’er. You like Jackass, Trailer Park Boys, or Christopher Guest-styled mockumentaries? Check them out. I can’t guarantee they’re funny if you didn’t grow up there, but that’s why this pair is the perfect pick and cult classics for any Albertan who can get past their rigpig pride and laugh at themselves. – Becky Belzile
Super 8 (2011)
Super 8 isn’t really my Ohio. It was shot in West Virginia and set in 1979, when I was alive but not even old enough to be a pesky younger sibling to the movie’s young leads. But it’s the first movie about Ohio that made me do a double take and question whether what I was seeing was familiar. Part of that familiarity is rooted in its nostalgia, sure. There’s something affecting in seeing a character tug an extra-long phone cord to its full length to gain a measure of privacy. Maybe you can remember the way the cord looked, stretching out its rings until they almost straightened, but stopping just shy of yanking it from its jack. Remembering feels good. But knowing other people remember, too, feels better, and that’s what a lot of Super 8 is to me—memory validation. Its fictional setting embodies both the look and feel of the towns I grew up near and what they were like just before I was born: There were jobs, there was a downtown, you could ride your bike there. School field trips meant trips to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but who knew what was even going on there. That reality was already disappearing by the time I came of age, so a part of my love of the film is a yearning, too. I always think of this film as a sort of joint production between J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg with a split that goes something like: Abrams, you handle aliens, Spielberg, set the mood. I’m sure it’s no accident the film’s setting resonated with me so much; the first film I ever saw in a theater was Spielberg’s E.T. It was 1982, and the theater downtown had closed a few years back. We drove down to the mall instead. – Samantha Sanders
Please Like Me (2013 – Present)
Josh Thomas’ TV show, Please Like Me is a drama/sitcom set in the world’s most livable city, Melbourne. It full embraces its setting and feels as though it couldn’t be made anywhere else. The show follows Josh as he comes to terms with coming out of the closet at the same time as his mother tries to kill herself. From the opening shots of a sundae being made in a Melbourne institution, Madame Brussels, the show announces itself as being as much about Melbourne as it is about the characters’ story. Melbourne is a city of cafes and food, so it is apt that each episode is named after a meal. It is also place where a young man like Josh would be able to work out who he is and discover his sexuality while living in a share house and eating the occasional 15 course dégustation. And also enjoying coffee that is better than anywhere else in Australia. Feel free to come and fight me about that last point. – Sean Fallon
What follows is a lot of spoilers for Mustang, a movie that you need to have seen by now anyway. Mustang’s finale, in which Lale and her sister escape from the village that has entrapped them and made them nothing more than unwilling brides and victims of their uncle’s perversions, broke my heart. I lived in Istanbul for three years, turned thirty there, married my wife there, and met friends who became family. Seeing Lale (played by Güneş Şensoy, one of my wife’s former students) staring out of the bus window as they entered the city across the Bosphorus (upon which I had my wedding) made me heartsick. I was happy to see these poor girls escape but seeing the wonderful city after being away from it for so long made me feel ill with homesickness. I have lived in Istanbul for a fraction of my life, but it will always be somewhere that I’ll call home. Seni seviyorum Istanbul! – Sean Fallon
I lived there for only a summer, but Los Angeles takes up a lot of special real estate in my heart. It was the first place I’d had to figure out by myself, for the most part. Working at two places, spending endless time navigating in my car, building new relationships, and creating a life in LA felt distinctly different from moving to the United Kingdom for university. However, it was back in the UK that I binged on Love, the Netflix original show about an unconventional romance set in LA. Upon watching, the show brought forth a kind of homesickness. Not only did my memories of that summer come rushing back thanks to scenes in spots like Harvard and Stone, but I also connected with the characters’ sense of confusion and curiosity as they tried to navigate their love story through the unique settings, both personal and physical, that only LA can produce. To me, Love captures all the messy, real, and incredible parts that make up the City of Angels, and left me ready to book a plane ticket back to the West Coast. – Staley Sharples
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
I don’t live exactly where this film takes place. I’m from the middle of Connecticut, about a two-hour drive from the real Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Still, I strongly feel that Kenneth Lonergan’s film captures a feeling that’s quintessentially New England, especially New England in the winter. The hopeless grey skies, the dirt-covered snow on the side of the road, the dry air and freezing wind, all of it conveys the severe regional depression that afflicts the eastern seaboard for a few months every year. The actual content of Manchester by the Sea will make you feel exactly as miserable as everyone in this part of the country does as a matter of course. When UCONN lost last week, it was like everyone was Casey Affleck, and all of our brothers just dropped dead. – Josh Rosenfield
Hits, despite its initial comic excess and rhetorical self-importance upon an initial viewing, has aged well in the intervening three years since it saw an initial debut at Sundance in 2014. Written and directed by David Cross, Hits presents a depiction of the sprawling communities and small towns that comprise the outer edges of the east coast tri-state area comprising New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The creeping infestation of the internet and its myriad social and political influences in the 21st century is caustically distilled down to the very worst manifestations of liberals and conservatives, millennials and baby boomers, hipsters and squares, and the deep divide that has more firmly established itself in Post-Trump America. The film’s script takes place in Upstate New York, but its regional evocations simultaneously bring my own sleepy little New Jersey hometown to life, too. – Sean K. Cureton
Winter’s Bone (2010)
I’m sure those familiar with the film probably think that I’m being disparaging of my hometown by selecting Winter’s Bone as a comparative and accurate representation. And while I come from the deep Appalachian region and not Ree’s Ozarks, Director Debra Granik’s vision of the latter, with the meth-hollowed hillside ruins and quietly intense residents, is a near one-to-one translation of the hollers from my home. And, sure, the comparison is built in large part on the points of negative observation as much as its forested terrain. Rural West Virginia suffers from the same drug-addled economic hopelessness that we see in the film, but it also carries the same sincerity and strength that is less distinctly observed but still very prevalent. Beneath the ruin-defined identity of West Virgnia, there exists in her best people an undeniable selflessness, a sense of resolute survivalism, and an understated and protective community love that I haven’t found anywhere since leaving a decade ago. But I recognized it in Winter’s Bone. – David Shreve, Jr.
A Few Good Men gets Annapolis and autumn in Maryland perfect. https://t.co/0VISSfMPXm
— Greg Sahadachny (@MisterGreggles) April 4, 2017
“LUV” starring Common. It was set in Baltimore and a majority of the things that happens in that movie happens sometimes IRL. https://t.co/XvJRjao0hW
— Keith Adams Jr. (@BigBrother1988) April 4, 2017
Tie between Spotlight and The Town.
One brought me back to the time when that story broke and the other reminds me of some people Ive met.. https://t.co/4tJuWeyYo4
— walter vinci (@waltervinci) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies I never grew up in Texas, but Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Live reminded me of growing up in a small town and playing outside all the time.
— David Wangberg (@norcalmovieguy) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies KINGS OF SUMMER feels just like teen years of irresponsibility & escaping to woods w/friends to get away from suburbia/school.
— John O’What? (@JOKftw) April 4, 2017
GONE BABY GONE. Many of the residents in that film feel like people I’ve lived next door to. https://t.co/kb0hEjDy8v
— FirstTimeWatchers (@1sttimewatchers) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies District 9 and Chappie. Yup, that accent is real although mixed-race & Anglo-Africans have their own characteristic slang (eg. Trevor Noah).
— Jayneel Ramjee (@jramjee) April 4, 2017
SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD because that’s literally Bloor West Village https://t.co/9ppJhZIUyH
— James T. (@JamesEditsFilms) April 4, 2017
Inherent Vice. Captures the beach life and weirdness of Los Angeles perfectly. https://t.co/jJD0Sm902n
— Brendan MemeStealer™ (@GenuineBrendan) April 4, 2017
AMERICAN HONEY (2016)
because of everything. https://t.co/C5K5gORCBt
— DEREK A DIERCKSMEIER (@diercksmeier) April 4, 2017
Probably MANCHESTER BY THE SEA because yes, we do talk like that. https://t.co/xV9hdFPWcZ
— Dan Doherty (@CASHEWJUlCE) April 4, 2017
DOPE. It felt authentic to my experience growing up as a blerd. https://t.co/zPDKqIhpll
— Boy Do We Have (@ProblemsUpHere) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Catch Me if You Can. Frank Abagnale Jr. went to a private high school in my area, and it was captured perfectly, along with the suburbs.
— Christian (@c_weckesser) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Jeff Nichols’ Shotgun Stories feels very real and authentic as a town in the deep south.
— Craig Tucker (@chillbone88) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Zodiac. Really captures the Bay Area at that time
— David Hart (@pccasestudy) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Sling Blade actually tapped what the region it’s set in is like.
— Austin Shinn (@untitleduser) April 4, 2017
— Chelsea Ruchalski (@EchoChelsea21) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Raising Arizona. You have no idea how such they nailed Arizona in the 80’s.
— Nick Isaac (@thenickisaac) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Scott Pilgrim, because it’s one of the only movies shot in Toronto that’s actually trying to look and feel like it instead of disguising it.
— Josh (@JoshMLabelle) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Milagro Beanfield War. The struggles are universal, but the culture, the scenery, the people and the way they cope are unique.
— Awdreenuh (@notimeforjoy) April 4, 2017
The Goonies. An amazing, small, tight knit, community full of kids, and imminent domain. https://t.co/qd3SUy656d
— Jason Blackhurst (@alsoKnownAsSlim) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies 500 Days of Summer… unlike in most movies, most relationships don’t work out in the end.
— Imperious Lex (@ImperiousLex) April 4, 2017
— Jr. Berger 🍔 (@MBerger36) April 4, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Nothing quite gets it right. Small/mid-sized KY towns. Maybe like PROMISED LAND. But the towns are always more close-knit than in real life.
— Nathan Kitchens (@nwkitchens) April 4, 2017
— Lindz (@readandgeek) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies The Tree of Life. Not because of the location but because of how distinctly Malick is able to evoke what it feels like to be a child.
— Graham Warnken (@GrahamWarnken) April 3, 2017
I’m from eastern Kentucky so….Winter’s Bone I guess? https://t.co/kbdkVucRmx
— Rebecca DeMornay (@MavisGary) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Friday the 13th part 3 & 4. I grew up near the shooting locations of both films.
— Serg (@Checo022682) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies jersey girls because the town in New Jersey where they filmed is where I grew up
— Chelsea Lynn (@_queen_of_hate_) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies High Fidelity. 1999 Chicago on point.
— Mike Slodki (@mslodki645) April 3, 2017
It Follows, cause it was filmed in Detroit and I just feel at home when I watch it. It’s so familiar. https://t.co/Wq0cd1oyY5
— paswrd is Jacob 📎 (@jamiller6565) April 3, 2017
Witness (the Harrison Ford movie) because, well, it WAS filmed in my home county https://t.co/szX0TdXzVa
— Mike K (@UnholyHand) April 3, 2017
Shaun of the Dead, because Shaun literally lives on the same street I did for the first twelve years of my life. https://t.co/5m67Owfu2x
— Raphael (@SirSpinky) April 3, 2017
I watched Attack the Block the other day and probably that without the aliens. https://t.co/aY97ZG6bKm
— Pesci (@PesciGotPepsi) April 3, 2017
ATTACK THE BLOCK.
South London, council estate – that’s been my entire life. And those characters feel like kids I went to school with. https://t.co/O5IwMDB3kI
— Aguiar (@MrNerdista) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Twister and Pure Country totally nail the rural homes and “strong-as-a-horse” women from where I grew up.
— Candice Hudson (@madpoetry) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Maybe Manchester by the Sea, not a lot of films about small Norwegian coastal island villages.
— Stein (@Rutledal) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Terrence Malick’s THE NEW WORLD. I’m from coastal Virginia and the bird calls he chose, which I heard in my yard as a kid, made me homesick
— Emma Stefansky (@stefabsky) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies The Dark Knight – Chicago. That balance between the mean streets and the modern big city opulence. Chicago also feels like a Noir city
— #RESIST Lupe (@theLupeXperienc) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Watching Nebraska was both hilarious and a bit scary. I know people like those characters and live in an area that’s very similar.
— Graeme Harwell (@GraemeHarwell) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Kung Fu Hustle. Camaraderie, pearls from poverty, bff’s, childhood oppression/redemption, buried memories and talents. Oh, and Kung Fu.
— Jean Poul Locke (@Lanky_McClacken) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Wedding Singer. Small town with an 80s feel, gorgeous old homes, and banquet halls that need updating.
— Victoria (@vicwicz) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Pleasantville. I never realized our close minded and sheltered the environment was until I left. Fear of what’s different is bred there.
— Beth Ann (@breynolds87) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies The Purple Rose of Cairo — comforting, bittersweet, charming & assured. 🎬
— Shane Scott-Travis (@ShaneScottravis) April 3, 2017
Other People. Family/neighbors “meaning well” but never facing deep truths or really knowing you. The awkwardness & denial felt authentic. https://t.co/32tZrZsHbU
— Kim Jones (@owlpacino) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Elements of Jeff Nichols’ ‘Mud’ remind me of the “devil may care” lifestyle of many people I grew up with in a deep south river city.
— Josh Price (@JoshPriceWrites) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies XXX 3 because it has a fun tropical party scene and is the only other US film I’ve seen set in the Philippines besides BOURNE LEGACY
— Anton Reyes (@TalesToAntonish) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Ordinary People ain’t far off.
— Noah Gittell (@noahgittell) April 3, 2017
Parts of SubUrbia for me. The atmosphere and people Linklater captured reminded me of the suburbs I know. https://t.co/0P3WoTTxrw
— Bay of Auteurs (@afuckingmohawk) April 3, 2017
Don McKellar’s Last Night. Both because it was filmed in my neighbourhood and it because it occupies the kind of headspace I’m in. https://t.co/AI1wypyIMQ
— Sarah Kurchak (@fodderfigure) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Monsoon Wedding. 100% accurate depiction of family/power dynamics/wedding madness/etc in South Asian families. V important film to me :’)
— garam masala (@shayan_farooq) April 3, 2017
Fatal Attraction because it was filmed in my hometown. https://t.co/eRHbyfWfPO
— Jane (@looks_last) April 3, 2017
— dekpay〽 (@fazataf) April 3, 2017
— Barry Ybarra (@ybarry45) April 3, 2017
— Emerald. (@emeraldleighw) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Nebraska. Really captures every day small town life. And the town I’m from always felt black and white to me.
— Schyler (@SkyyTweet) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Muholland Dr. Everything is alienating and I never know if it is an illusion or not.
— 2017 Is Bad (@WhatsPappening) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies Clerks. I’m from central NJ. Very relatable characters, types, dialogue, etc. Smith nailed it.
— Joe Fruscione (@Joe_Fru) April 3, 2017
@WeTalkMovies weirdly enough, JAWS. Idk if it’s bc I watched it so much as a kid or if the quaintness of Amity reminds me of home
— Reid Ramsey (@reid_ramsey) April 3, 2017
Rocky. The most Philly of movies in Philadelphia. Feisty, sometimes forgotten. Yet always there to remind people that we’re there. https://t.co/BatZ9yUZR4
— Eric Jones (@deacon05oc) April 3, 2017
— Larry Wright (@refocusedmedia) April 3, 2017
SLACKER captures the Austin I (barely) knew in the 90s. https://t.co/lhFksvRBmE
— John Gholson (@gholson) April 5, 2017
— Brian Losoya (@brianlosoya) April 5, 2017
— Adam Frazier (@AdamFrazier) April 3, 2017
Edited for additional content 4/6/2017.
Featured Image: Roadside Attractions