Freshers’ week is a chaotic time for everyone. You’re moving into college, making new friends and living in a completely different city. Films can be a great way to bond over common interests and the recommendations below are a testament to that. Whether you’re craving the comfort of a Richard Curtis classic, a movie that reminds you of home, or a blood-curdling horror to unite your new group of friends, there’s something for everyone!
Olivia Begley – About Time
It’s easy to imagine university life as a whirlwind of pre-drinks, clubbing, 9am lectures, repeat – and while this might be the case for some people, it really is worth taking some time to relax and get to know your new flatmates during freshers’ week. What better way is there to do so than with a bowl of popcorn and a good film?
My top ‘settling in’ film recommendation is the 2013 rom-com, About Time, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams. This film tells the story of unlucky in love, Tim, who learns that the men in his family can travel back in time to replay the past and change their own actions, and swiftly realises that this might be his chance to do the unthinkable…get a girlfriend. About Time is whimsical without being unrealistic, funny without being slapstick and tells both a romantic and familial love story – watching the easy dynamic of the Lake family as they set about their routine of table tennis, skimming rocks and drinking tea on the Cornish beach every evening is the perfect antidote to any freshers’ week homesickness that might be creeping in.
Written and directed by Richard Curtis (the creator of films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love Actually), About Time really hits the feel-good-film spot – I can’t think of a better film to settle down to with your new flatmates on a chilly Durham evening. Towards the end of the film, Tim worries that the ability to travel back and relive each day might stop him from enjoying the beauty of everyday life and actively chooses to try and live every day as if he will only get one chance to do so. I think this is a pretty good way to look at your time as Durham students, it won’t be long before the real world comes calling, so make the most of each day here!
Fan Wang – Internal Affairs
When asked for settling in film recommendations, I will always suggest at least one Hong Kong film not only because the language and the setting remind me of my hometown, but also because most Hong Kong films deserve wider recognition for their production quality, sequences, and plots.
The first pick that came to mind is Internal Affairs, a crime action-thriller that stars two legendary Hong Kong actors, Andy Lau and Tony Leung. It is also one of the great classics within the Hong Kong movie canon. This film is followed by two sequels simply called Internal Affairs II and Internal Affairs III, but I personally enjoyed the first film in the series for its originality and compelling plot.
Internal Affairs focuses on the story of two protagonists, a police officer who enters a triad and a member from the same triad who infiltrates the Hong Kong Police Force. Both of their separate organisations attempt to gain advantages in intelligence over the other with their mole. What makes the plot so interesting to watch unfold is the tension between the characters and the dramatic sequences present throughout the film. All of these factors make the film truly entertaining to watch with friends during freshers’ week.
George Simms – The Woman in Black
I don’t like horror movies. That isn’t to say they’re not well-made, I just don’t like being scared. It’s the same reason I don’t like roller coasters, skydiving, or the sound of someone knocking on my window at 4 am when I live on the fifth floor. However, ten days into my Durham experience, against my better nature, I was one of eight freshers crammed into a dark and very definitely single room, with James Watkins’ The Woman in Black playing on a laptop on the floor.
It’s not a psychological secret that going through shared trauma can bring people together. Whilst I wouldn’t exactly call The Woman in Black traumatic, all being scared by the same thing for two hours certainly helped bring my friendship group together.
It was a great way of getting to know slightly more about people too. We saw who went for the ‘I’m too hard to be scared approach’, who was over-dramatic, who was a genuine movie buff and who just loved horror films. We heard who had a real blood-curdling scream and who let out more of a whimper at the jump scares.
Whatever you think about horror films, they take us out of our comfort zone. Their selling point is the uncomfortable tension they create, that ‘monster under your bed’ worry of what’s about to happen next. And, watching them with people you hardly know makes you all let your guard down and simply be scared together for a few hours. It can help you learn just a bit more about each other and see how you all function in a setting you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.
Illustration: Sophie Inkester