11 Movies Like I Am Mother (2019)

Staff & contributors

It’s a testament to Agnès Varda’s remarkable ability to glean so much raw beauty and truth from the world that this autobiographical documentary is such a rewarding watch, even for people unfamiliar with her. The Beaches finds the pioneering director in reflective mode as she looks back at her work and life, but her artistic impulses are by no means stagnant: she approaches the past with the same — if not more of the — generous candor and youthful spirit that colored her career.

It’s also a testament to Varda’s inimitable artistic touch that she turns a usually-bleak subject — mortality — into something this life-affirming. The Beaches was made when she was 81, aware of her own ticking clock and still nursing the decades-long loss of so many loved ones (chiefly, husband Jacques Demy). Just as her grief-stricken reflections don’t overwhelm the film with sadness, the whimsical impulses she indulges here — like constructing a beach on the street in front of her office — don’t blunt the sharpness of her candor. The overall effect is bittersweet and profoundly inspiring: as with the mirrors she places in front of the tide in the film's first scene, she’s showing us it’s possible to face the inescapable with a twinkle in your eye.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Agnès Varda, Gérard Depardieu, Harrison Ford, Jane Birkin, Mathieu Demy, Robert De Niro, Rosalie Varda

Director: Agnès Varda

The question mark in the title represents the central idea of this fascinating documentary: what if worshipping Satan is the only way of ensuring religious freedom for everyone?

That's what a group of young members known as The Satanic Temple believe, led by a determined and well-spoken Harvard graduate. They embark on a journey across the U.S. to challenge corrupt officials and the prevalence of religious biases in government agencies. They always request that their belief system (Satanism) is given the same favorable treatment as Christianity, effectively proving that authorities will really only accept a show of religion if it's one religion: Christianity.

But their intoxicating energy comes with costs: divisions within the organization and growing pains. This documentary perfectly illustrates not only a misunderstood religion (in the documentary it's referred to as "post-religion") but the difficulties of establishing grassroots movements in general.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Anton LaVey, Bill O'Reilly, Billy Graham, Cecil B. DeMille, Chalice Blythe, Charlton Heston, Chris Hayes, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Geraldo Rivera, Greta Van Susteren, Jex Blackmore, Lucien Greaves, Malcolm Jarry, Mamie Eisenhower, Megyn Kelly, Mike Pence, Nicholas Crowe, Penny Lane, Rick Scott, Sal De Ciccio

Director: Penny Lane

Rating: R

What makes Apollo 11 stand out is its sharp minimalist approach, allowing the archival footage of the mission to the moon to speak for itself. It’s stunning to think that at one point or another we had collectively seen a bulk of the footage in this film, and yet somehow let it lay dormant until the moon landing had been reduced to black and white stills in our collective imaginations. Not only does this film reinvigorate the moon landing with the power that it once held, but it does so in a way that is more thrilling than anything the Marvel CGI wizards could muster. The vibrant score adds a layer of ferocious tension, while the breakneck pace gives the feel of a rollercoaster ride. If there is any fault to find here, it is most definitely with the film’s MAGA style yearning for a time and place that never existed. Spare us the teary-eyed patriotism and the clips of Nixon, a disgraceful criminal, and vile racist, yammering on about the world becoming one. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic example of why most biopics should just be documentaries and why the fanatical fear of spoilers is a tad silly. Spoiler alert: they land on the moon.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Andy Aldrin, Bill Anders, Bruce McCandless II, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Deke Slayton, Gene Kranz, Janet Armstrong, Jim Lovell, John F. Kennedy, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, Patricia Mary Finnegan, Todd Douglas Miller, Walter Cronkite

Director: Todd Douglas Miller

Rating: G

An insightful and thoughtful Canadian coming-of-age drama, Giant Little Ones is about two seventeen-year-old best friends whose relationship changes after an incident one night. Spanning a quick 90 minutes, it manages to tell its story quickly and honestly, as it touches on themes of sexual identity not only for the teenagers but for their parents as well. And it has a great message about tolerance. It's a lovely and wholesome movie. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Carson MacCormac, Cory Lee, Darren Mann, Evan Marsh, Hailey Kittle, Jeff Clarke, Josh Wiggins, Kiana Madeira, Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello, Niamh Wilson, Olivia Scriven, Peter Outerbridge, Stephanie Moore, Taylor Hickson

Director: Keith Behrman

Rating: R

This adaptation of a foundational work in Estonian literature is about an idealistic 19th-century farmer who is determined to turn his piece of land into a fruitful homestead. Things don’t go as expected because once confronted with his neighbor’s antagonistic nature he transforms from a loving family man to a bullying patriarch. 

Directed by the talented Tanel Toom and shot by Rein Kotov (the cinematographer behind the war drama 1944), Truth and Justice is a beautifully made adaptation Combining elements like a classic plot, radiant images, with a modern score from Mihkel Zilmer, this film-mirror of the Estonian's soul is not to be missed.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aarne Soro, Aksel Ojari, Andero Ermel, Andres Lepik, Andres Mähar, Andres Renke, Andres Tabun, Ester Kuntu, Indrek Sammul, Kalju Orro, Karmo Nigula, Katrin Kalma, Külliki Saldre, Laura Kukk, Liisa Aibel, Loora-Eliise Kaarelson, Luule Komissarov, Maiken Pius, Margus Prangel, Margus Tabor, Maria Ehrenberg, Maria Koff, Marika Vaarik, Marta Riisalu, Mikk Kaasik, Ott Aardam, Ott Raidmets, Peeter Tammearu, Priit Loog, Priit Võigemast, Risto Vaidla, Simeoni Sundja, Uku Uusberg, Ursel Tilk

Director: Tanel Toom

When Toni Morrison taught at Princeton, she told her students, “Don’t write about your little life. Create something.” This documentary follows her instruction by being more than a simple biography. Apart from telling the story of her rich, fully-lived life, The Pieces I Am doubles as an artful and educational history lesson about the unique African-American experience. It’s dotted with beautiful artworks and insightful anecdotes shared by Morrison’s colleagues from the various schools and publishing houses she worked at. But most important of all, Morrison gets to narrate the film in her own beautiful, poetic words and, in the process, reveals different facets of herself. There’s Morrison the teacher, editor, writer, and mother, but also: the delightful baker, the supportive friend, the party enjoyer, the critical philosopher. The Pieces I Am is a great collection of many things, a moving collage that pieces together the most interesting parts about the beloved writer in question.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Angela Davis, Barack Obama, Bill Moyers, Dick Cavett, Fran Lebowitz, Hilton Als, Muhammad Ali, Oprah Winfrey, Peter Sellars, Robert Gottlieb, Russell Banks, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley

Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Rating: PG-13

A quiet movie about an unpredictable convict who gets enrolled in a wild mustang taming program. These initiatives, common around the country, offer fascinating parallels: both the horses and the inmates are emprisoned, both innately fight against their condition but are actively being made to comply. The central performance by Matthias Schoenaerts is nothing short of a masterpiece. He doesn't speak much and you almost don't want him to: everything else he does communicates so much more than words. Watching this movie just for him is reason enough.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, Gideon Adlon, Heath Hensley, Jasmeet Baduwalia, Jason Mitchell, John Logsdon, Josh Stewart, Kelly Richardson, Kieth Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Noel Gugliemi, Santina Muha, Thomas Smittle

Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Rating: R

Watch this if you like weird movies. And don't be fooled by the first half, which serves just to set Jesse Eisenberg's character and the monotone life he leads. It's the calm before the storm, during which that character is attacked by a violent gang and decides to take self-defense classes in an unusual club. This is a movie about modern manhood and how it can lead to some pretty strange situations. Great performance from Eisenberg as usual.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Apollo Bacala, Caroline Amiguet, Dallas Edwards, Davey Johnson, David Zellner, Frederic Spitz, Hauke Bahr, Imogen Poots, Jason Burkey, Jesse Eisenberg, Josh Fadem, Katherine Smith-Rodden, Leland Orser, Lena Friedrich, Louis Robert Thompson, Mike Brooks, Phillip Andre Botello, Steve Terada

Director: Riley Stearns

Rating: R

A biopic is only as big as the personality at its center, and what a personality Pavarotti had. The Opera singer that crossed into the mainstream from his humble upbringings in Modena, Italy, exuded happiness and had a great outlook on life. And even as the attention he would eventually attract takes its tole, he's able to maintain his positivity and his dedication to his art. This documentary on his life and his work will be even more interesting to you if like me you didn't know who Pavarotti was, or the impact he's had.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Andrea Griminelli, Angela Gheorghiu, Bono, Harvey Goldsmith, José Carreras, Lang Lang, Luciano Pavarotti, Madelyn Renée Monti, Nicoletta Mantovani, Plácido Domingo, Vittorio Grigolo, Zubin Mehta

Director: Ron Howard

Rating: PG-13

Robyn Davidson decided to cross 1,700 miles in the Australian desert with four camels and her trusty dog, and this film recounts her real-life journey. In many ways this is a companion piece to Reese Witherspoon’s Wild, also released in theaters in 2014. While I enjoyed Wild, it went out of its way to make the protagonist’s journey understood to audiences. Tracks gives Robyn some light shading and backstory, but unlike Wild it almost focuses solely on her journey across the desert. And what a desert it is! The scenery is shot beautifully and we feel as though we are truly on this daring journey with her, traveling alien landscapes with little to depend on beyond our animal companions and our wits. We know the outcome (since this is a true story) but we are still thrilled to see how it unfolds. What does it all mean, and what was the journey’s purpose? Thankfully, in the end, the answer is left as enigmatic as the heroine herself.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Adam Driver, Bryan Probets, Daisy Walkabout, Emma Booth, Evan Casey, Felicity Steel, Fiona Press, Ian Conway, Jessica Tovey, John Flaus, Lily Pearl, Melanie Zanetti, Mia Wasikowska, Philip Dodd, Rainer Bock, Robert Coleby, Rolley Mintuma

Director: John Curran

Rating: PG-13

An innocent-fun movie, Always Be My Maybe is a lovely thing to turn your brain off to. Sasha and Marcus are high-school best friends who dated briefly and went their separate ways. 16 years later, they meet again - Sasha is a famous chef, and Marcus is still living with his dad.

What really makes this movie is the writing from Ali Wong and Randall Park, who also play the two leads. The dialogue is sharp, believable and smart - going as far as covering themes of gender and parenting. But also, because a rom-com about two Asians from San Francisco is not exactly a common occurrence, the characters are fresh, the jokes are fresh - everything is fresh.

Watch out for the character who plays Marcus' dad, he plays the character of an overly honest Korean dad perfectly. And also watch out for Keanu Reeves, he plays a crazy version of himself!

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Adam Farnsworth-Lautsch, Ali Wong, Ashley Liao, Brian Cook, Byron Noble, Casey Wilson, Charlyne Yi, Chris Hlozek, Corey Seaver, Daniel Dae Kim, Eddie Flake, Ellen Ewusie, Emerson Min, Emilio Merritt, Jackson Geach, Jagen Johnson, James Saito, Jason Canela, JayR Tinaco, Johnny Walkr Jr., Karan Soni, Karen Holness, Keanu Reeves, Kenan Zeigler-Sungur, Kipp Glass, Latonya Williams, Maddie Dixon-Poirier, Marcella Bragio, Marco Soriano, Michelle Buteau, Miya Cech, Neil Webb, Nevin Burkholder, Oliver Rice, Omar Khan, Panta Mosleh, Peggy Lu, Peter New, Randall Park, Raymond Ma, Sean Amsing, Simon Chin, Sonia Beeksma, Steven E. Rudy, Susan Park, Tana Yu, Tyler McConachie, Vivian Bang, Xiao Qing Li, Yaroslav Poverlo

Director: Nahnatchka Khan

Rating: PG-13