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Words & Film - Guest Blog - Inspired Viewing: Lucy Sanna's List of 5 Inspiring Movies

June 13, 2015

Editor's Note: Lucy Sanna has been writing nearly all her life, focusing primarily on the drama of relationships. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Lucy now divides her time between San Francisco, CA, and Madison, WI, where she continues to write stories and lead creative writing workshops. Her debut novel, The Cherry Harvest, is available in print, e-book, and audio formats.

Many great films deal with relationships - love, friendship, family, workplace, battle, sports; in fact, it's hard to think of any that doesn't. What makes a good film? I know a good film when I'm immediately immersed in the time and place and characters' lives, so much so that I forget I'm watching a movie. Such films typically have strong characters with hopes, dreams, and ambitions; characters who feel the sting of failure, the twinge of conscience, the joy of life, the tragedy of loss.

The films that came to mind as I wrote The Cherry Harvest ranged from historical drama, to dark comedy, to light romance.

"Country" (1984)
Because The Cherry Harvest is an historical novel that deals with a farming family facing hard times, the movie "Country" comes readily to mind. "Country" takes place during the trying economic times for family farms in the 1980s, when many farmers lost their land. Gil (Sam Shepard) and Jewell (Jessica Lange) - one of my favorite real-life acting couples - cannot make ends meet. Gil is ready to give it up, but Jewel - a strong woman, not unlike my Charlotte in The Cherry Harvest - wants to save the farm. When the movie appeared, the story was so powerful that politicians reacted. President Ronald Reagan wrote that "Country" was a "blatant propaganda message against our agri programs." Lange was brought before a congressional panel to testify as an expert as if she were a farmer rather than an actress. What a performance!

"Blue Jasmine" (2013)
In watching "Blue Jasmine," I could easily imagine Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), as Charlotte, my protagonist. While the two women - Jasmine and Charlotte - are different in personality and motivation, both, for different reasons, become more and more desperate in their individual attempts to overcome increasingly difficult obstacles. Will they succeed? I don't want to give away the outcome of The Cherry Harvest, but the outcome of "Blue Jasmine" was a slew of award nominations; Cate Blanchett won the Academy Award, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress.

"The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946)
"The Best Years of Our Lives" tells the story of three U.S. servicemen returning to civilian life from WWII. The men have come home wounded, each in his own way, and struggle to regain their lives. Not only have they changed, but so has the world they return to. Though the story takes place in the same era as The Cherry Harvest, one of the many differences is that the film is told from the point of view of the returning men, while my story is told by women on the home front. "The Best Years of Our Lives" was a commercial success and won seven Academy Awards.

"Alice Adams" (1935)
In "Alice Adams," a romantic comedy that takes place in the early 1900s, Katharine Hepburn portrays Alice, a young woman who attempts to conceal her poverty to attract wealthy Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray). Arthur is not convinced with Alice's charade, but falls in love with her in spite of herself. In The Cherry Harvest, when my seventeen-year-old Kate enters a Gatsbyesque party and meets the son of a senator, she mimics Hepburn's Alice in a somewhat transparent attempt to hide her farm-girl background. Does she succeed? I'm not going to spoil it for you!

"The Notebook" (2004)
"The Notebook" begins and ends in present day but it's primarily the story of two teenagers, Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams), who share a summer of love in 1940. As in The Cherry Harvest, the star-crossed lovers are of different classes. The passion of the two teens pulls them together even as they struggle against the mores of the day. Though some referred to it as a "chick flick," "The Notebook" performed well at the box office and has since gained a cult following.

While these films are set in different times and places, and while "what's at stake" differs greatly from one to the next, they all deal with relationships. They all have strong characters who know what they want and strive to overcome obstacles to reach their goals. Some win, some lose. And we keep watching to find out how they'll do it.