Graduating during the height of the pandemic left me with a murky future. Even those graduating this spring are likely still having trouble securing internships and job offers in this competitive and unstable job market. For those who have been out of college for a little while, the pandemic likely brought new trials, or provided you with a new perspective which made you reevaluate your goals and how you want to build your future moving forward. When I'm feeling a little lost in the real world, I turn to the world of fiction, which offers real-world comfort. So here are six films to put on if you're a recent grad whose plans aren't shaping up to be what you thought, or if you're a twentysomething still figuring it out!
Adventureland, set in 1987, follows the protagonist James Brennan's summer after graduating college. James (played by Jesse Eisenberg), plans to travel around Europe and then attend grad school in the fall at Columbia University. Then, his parents reveal that they're having financial problems and he will have to put his plans on hold. In order to help support himself, he takes a part-time job working in a local amusement park with his childhood friend. Cue the cast of quirky co-workers and his love interest Em (Kristen Stewart). It's truly one of my favorite coming-of-age comedies and will cheer you up if life just isn't turning out the way you planned.
- The Year Of Spectacular Men
Starring Madelyn and Zoe Deutch, The Year Of Spectacular Men is a drama-comedy about Izzy Klein, a recent graduate, who, after a breakup with her boyfriend, moves from NYC to LA to live with her sister to try and find her footing in her career and love life. Like Adventureland, it's a coming-of-age story mixed with romance, but it has family at the heart of it, too! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one, and I recommend it if you need some solidarity in the trials of love and catching your big break.
Laggies stars Keira Knightley as Megan Birch, a 28-year-old, who has stuck with the same crowd since high school and has yet to forge a career, since she works at her father's business as a sign girl to bring in customers. She has what some might call classic Peter Pan Syndrome, but for the more compassionate viewers, we may simply say she's having a hard time adjusting to the aimlessness that often comes with adulthood – you know, once you've finished school and no longer have anyone telling you what you have to do? She befriends a teenage girl (Chloe Moretz) and ends up staying at her house for a week in order to avoid her boyfriend, who has recently proposed. It's another relatable movie if you're feeling a little aimless yourself.
- Frances Ha
I cannot recommend Frances Ha enough. This movie stars the amazing Greta Gerwig! This film, shot in black-and-white, tells the story of 27-year-old Frances Halladay, a dancer who is having trouble advancing in her career. Frances's world becomes even more unstable when she finds out Sophie, her best friend and roommate, is going to move in with her boyfriend. We get to watch Frances bounce around NYC as she gets more and more distant from Sophie. You can't help but feel Frances's frustration as her life is seemingly on hold while everyone else around her seems to be moving forward. It's a super heartwarming story about friendship and a very real depiction of the realties of life post-college life.
- The Graduate
This list would not be complete without this classic film. While it deviates from most of my recommendations plot-wise, I remember watching this after graduating and relating terribly to the scene where the protagonist, Benjamin Braddock, is floating in his family's pool as his father berates him about what he plans to do next, career-wise. This one if good to watch if you want to make yourself feel because you're probably not having as much of a messed up time as Benjamin, who ends up seeing Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner, and then — not so conveniently — falls in love with her daughter.
- Kicking and Screaming
Directed by Noah Baumbach (as is Frances Ha), Kicking & Screaming is for all my graduates having a hard time letting go. This film follows a cast of college graduates who end up staying in their college town for a year. If you've ever imagined what that might be like (I know I did), look no further. The dialogue is witty and relatable. I watched this the summer after I graduated, which was admittedly aimless, and could not shake this quote: "What I used to able to pass off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life." Have no fear, you're not alone if you're a little wary about the future, and this movie will solidfy that you are not the first person to look out at their future unsure where to go next or how to let go of the past. And there's comfort in that.
Entering the "real world" and adjusting to adulthood post-college is expected, but easier said than done. Times are especially tough right now, and it's okay if right now is not the smoothest time. That's when we put on a good movie that gives us just enough hope to carry on. And spoiler alert: it's all going to turn out fine.