In the the nearly two decades since becoming a woman or whatever, I’ve come to realize that surviving PMS sometimes means leaning into the odd slew of emotions the hits hard for one or two days each month. Melancholy, despondency, anxiety — you know, all the good ones — blend together to leave me feeling just delightful. When this happens I’ve decided it’s best to wallow in the sad. My favorite way of really languishing is to watch movies designed to make me blue.
I’ve compiled a list of of these movies to make your monthly melancholy moments that much easier, or at least more efficient. It can take hours to sift through Netflix. I may set up a profile exclusively for my PMS persona.
January — The Way We Were
Because there’s nothing more depressing than having loved and lost Robert Redford. This love and loss is a common theme among this list. Watching two people invest in each other, typically one more than the other, typically the woman is heart wrenching. I’ve imagined myself in Katie’s position a hundred times. Loving a man for what he could be. Believing in him, pushing his success, and then, getting completely betrayed because he never loved her for who she was. And then, they both move in their separate directions with new people, never to reclaim the connection that was forged over the course of decades. I never suffered the loss of a connection forged over more than 16 months, but living a more devastating one through the eyes of Barbara Streisand is incredibly cathartic.
February — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
As evidenced by The Way We Were, it’s terribly painful to remember a relationship after it’s ended. So, logically the best way to ease that pain would be to forget the relationship entirely. And, yet, somehow it’s incredibly depressing to see two people unremember their love. It’s the perfect I’m sad and I don’t even know why I’m sad movie.
Pro Tip: Because the the Eternal Sunshine treatment has not been invented, yet, you can always try my selective memory tactic wherein you only remember the truly crappy moments and you’re just thrilled to be rid of the guy.)
March — The Last 5 Years
This movie blends your average romcom with the Way We Were with Funny Girl. Trough melancholic songs Anna Kendrick tells the story of her marriage to a hopeful novelist turned lothario from end to beginning. The story follows said lothario from beginning to end of the same story. Also, in song. This is another stand by your man until he becomes successful and cheats on you because he can piece.
Pro Tip: Always catch your man after he’s found success and dumped the girl who got him there.
April — Breaking Upwards
Proving no matter how hard you you try to escape unscathed, breakups are going to wound you. Zoe-Lister Jones is amazing in everything, including Stuck Between Stations. (Bonus! Sam Rosen makes an appearance in this one as well.) The film follows Zoe and her dude as they painstakingly (and futily) plan a pain-free split. Naturally, they fail and encounter the same breakup pitfalls we all face, because NO ONE IS IMMUNE!
Pro Tip: Take note of the unspoken third character: The city of New York. Brilllllllliant, right?
May — What Dreams May Come
This one is for those truly terminal months. There’s love, the loss of two children, coming back to the brink of divorce, death of a husband, mental illness, suicide, and a battle between heaven and hell. The darkness is compounded by the recent loss of Robin Williams who was battling his own demons. Beyond the dark poetic themes, the imagery is stunning, so even if you don’t want to wallow in sadness you should give it a shot. Maybe just mute it and play the Mary Poppins soundtrack over the visuals.
Pro Tip: This is one should be immediately followed by a dose of Gilmore Girls or the like.
June — The Joy Luck Club
A hard look at the relationship between mothers and daughters, this film resonates with any daughter who has a mother. Even if that mother is not a Chinese immigrant. Throughout the film we witness stories from four sets of mothers and daughters as they struggle to understand each other and make sense of their own lives. Based on the Amy Novel, she also had a hand in the screenplay, ensuring each vignette is beautifully represented.
Pro Tip: Consider your own family history while watching. It’s the perfect time to overanalyze how your mother’s (and her mother’s) experiences may have shaped your own.
July — You’re the Worst Season 2
So a TV show might be cheating, but maybe you need a marathon of sadness tinged with just enough humor to ensure you can make it through all 13 episodes. While the first season had some sad realities woven throughout, season 2 focuses almost entirely on the insidiousness of depression. The scene where Gretchen (played by Aya Cash) sneaks out in the middle of the night to cry is the most authentic moment I’ve ever seen on television.
Pro Tip: Get a You’re the Worst buddy you can text intermittently. That way if you decide your melancholy is more than PMS, they can remind you to go back and watch season one to cheer back up again.
August — The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby — Her, Him, Them
Confession, I’ve only watched Her, but will go back for Him and Them on the 28th day of next month. I was first drawn to the Netflix poster because I love the Beatles and couldn’t wait to find out what happened to all the lonely people. Again, we’ve got the loss of a child and the subsequent guilt driving the parents apart. Jessica Chastain is phenomenal and strong and the moments between her and James MacAvoy are gut wrenching.
Pro Tip: Probably watch before you have children if you don’t want to be completely gutted.
September — Stepmom
Despite the divorce and cancer themes, this is oddly one of the lighter films on the list. Julia Roberts is peak 1990s Julia Roberts. Susan Sarandon is impeccable as always. The film spends most of the time exploring an important relationship that seldom gets any screen time, that between the mom and the stepmom, making for an interesting and nuanced plotline. Throw in some extremely heavy seasonal overtones and you’ve got perfection.
Pro Tip: Don’t stray from the prescribed season for this one. You’ll need to go for an autumnal walk afterward, and if it’s 80 and sunny or snowing, it won’t be quite the same.
October — Atonement
Beautiful people in love torn apart by a jealous sibling, prison and then World War II? What an amazing recipe for sadness. Filmed back when Benedict Cumberbatch’s weak chin was rapey rather than heroic, the entire thing is a tragically too-little-too-late mea culpa with a little classism and incest mixed in for optimal melancholy.
Pro Tip: Turn the whole thing into a chance to don period dress. Change outfits for each decade to really get into the minds and hearts of the fated characters.
November — Stuck Between Stations
That’s right. More Zoe Lister-Jones and more Sam Rosen. Plus, the third unspoken character in this one is the city of Minneapolis (twist!). Perfect for those months (i.e., the onslaught of the holidays) when you’re looking back on the years between high school and adulthood and wondering what the hell happened. Between the PTSD, an odyssean tour of Minneapolis, and near-miss romance, there’s something for the sorrowful soul in all of us.
Pro Tip: Though Sam Rosen (who is one of Minneapolis’ more underrated exports) is adorable, it’s really not a good idea to get romantically involved with someone who has untreated PTSD.
December — Happy Christmas
December is usually a time when I refuse to watch anything that would do anything to detract from the festive season. It’s why I didn’t watch Making a Murderer until everyone else decided that Steven Avery was innocent and then guilty and then innocent again. But, unfortunately, biology does not take a break just because it’s Christmas. So, Happy Christmas is a perfect compromise. Anna Kendrick plays an unsympathetic character who uses her own breakup as an excuse to go and screw up her brother’s happy-ish life. In the process, she brings to light that the happy-ish life is kind of miserable for his wife. A jolly good romp.
Pro Tip: Letting your black sheep sister stay with you may be exactly what your marriage needs. I say this in the event that my own life inevitably falls apart again.