As some of us get ready to leave college and attempt to become real people, a lot of excitement, anxiety, fear and uncertainty naturally accompany the promise of such a change. In all my time watching hours upon hours of movies and TV shows that had an impact on me in my college journey, nothing has brought me comfort for the future and captured the uncertainties of living through your 20s quite like the 2012 film Frances Ha.
We all find comfort in film and TV shows, but not as much as I do in Frances Ha.
We follow Frances’s (played by the all-too-wonderful Greta Gerwig) story many years after she graduated college, but that doesn’t make her life any less messy or relatable. As a struggling 27-year-old aspiring dancer living in New York City, she uses optimism and her almost child-like faith to fake her way through adulthood. The film follows her misadventures as a carefree and confused woman navigating her 20s who has no idea how to rise to adulthood — while taking every horrible thing that comes to her with an uplifting grace and humor.
Frances Ha gets its unique charm and relatable sensibility from its balance between realism and humor. Frances goes through a lot of the things we fear going through as we prepare to make it in the world–she can’t pay rent, her job doesn’t need her and she gets in a long-term fight with her closest friend. Although Frances often feels alone and a little lost, the film often focuses on the humorous aspects that come with this reality and on a more light-hearted aspect of a young woman who truly struggles to stand on solid ground.
Telling a coming-of-age story in this way makes the film feel largely comforting, while at the same time, extremely relatable.
The filmmaking itself lends itself to realism through its long takes of normal human interaction and quick cuts to funny quips the characters have with each other. The very beginning of the film gives you momentary glances of interactions between Frances and her best friend Sophie–and they give you everything you need to understand their friendship. “I wouldn’t eat a domesticated dog,” says Sophie in one of these moments as she and Frances smoke cigarettes out their back window. “You say that just because they’re cute,” Frances replies. We then move to a lengthy scene of Frances trying to dodge moving in with her boyfriend. Through this natural story framework, Frances Ha embodies the awkwardness and pain you experience while in your twenties, while also painting the magic of living as a young and free adult still allowed to make mistakes. It reminds us that adulthood doesn’t have to start right when we leave college, but acts as a reminder that we all navigate life in our own way and don’t necessarily need to have it all figured out right away.
In its own magnificent way, at the core of Frances Ha lies the power of friendship.
Frances’s relationship with her best friend Sophie goes off track when Frances wants things to stay the same and Sophie wants to move to a new chapter in her life that doesn’t revolve around Frances. This obviously comes as a painful experience for both of them, but the film gives us the purest example of unconditional love when Frances learns to accept that the person who means the most to her can make life decisions that she can’t understand or relate to. Sometimes the people you love grow apart from you, but that doesn’t have to make them any less important to you, and Frances Ha gives us that feeling in the most moving way possible. Personally, I know I have put immense pressure on myself to build my life a certain way so I feel successful and fulfilled–like if I don’t get the job I want right out of college I have failed myself and the people who care about me in some way.
But every time I watch Frances Ha, I feel reassured that those things don’t have to matter as much as I sometimes think they do.
While I don’t necessarily look up to the characters or use them as an example for how to exactly live my 20s, the way the film shows their imperfections without harnessing any judgment will always serve as a reminder that I should do the same for myself.
Frances Ha shows us what it feels like to live like a young person right now in all its chaos, but provides the value of remembering the things that mean the most to us and not letting these things go. Maybe don’t pull a Frances and get a credit card at the mall so you can go to Paris for two days. Or maybe you should? I don’t have all the answers. I DO know that this film provides me with some clarity as I get ready to move on to the next part of my life and makes me feel a little less alone and insane. I hope it does the same for you.