We all know the feeling. Every year, Smile Power Day comes around once more, bringing with it happiness and joy equal to a thousand laughing babies, or a field of smiling kittens – everyone in the world seems to have successfully embraced the power of the smile, that is, apart from you. Yes, we’re talking about you, as you sit in that chair, staring into your screen, wondering if this article will be the smile cure you’ve spent your life searching for; well, you may just be in luck.
We know that, sometimes, smiling is harder than it seems. Yes, physically, it’s just a case of raising some of those droopy face muscles, but just smiling for the sake of it often feels empty and fake; we all need an actual reason for smiling sometimes. The world is, as we all know, full of reasons not to smile; it’s easy to feel insignificant and worthless as you wander through this tough life. Maybe someone that was once close to you is no longer with us, maybe the person you thought you loved for many years is no longer interested in you, or maybe that “free gift” you were promised in the box of your morning cereal is nowhere to be seen; boy that third one is rough.
Sometimes a funny cat video just won’t do it, you’re stuck on a downer, and there’s nothing you can think to turn to. This, our friends in need, is where our old pal cinema steps in to save the day!
Cinema can often be a great smile power tool. Films can teach us so many great things, they allow us to view the world under new light, but above all, they can draw our attention to the smaller things in life, the things that may seem very insignificant at first, but in fact, are essential to ensuring that we make the most of our time here together. So sit back, and get ready for that face of yours to hurt from smiling, as we present to you, five cinematic reasons to smile. Smile power.
Reason One: Because Life’s Too Short (From Ten Minutes Older, 1978)
Ten Minutes Older is a short film, directed by Herz Frank, which contains one simple shot of a group of young children as they sit watching a stage performance within a darkened theatre. The camera mainly focuses on one very expressive little girl, as the expressions on her face seem to travel through every emotional state present in life.
Within a very small span of time, this little girl expresses sadness, joy, curiosity, fear, and happiness. Watching Ten Minutes Older is like exploring a life-long journey of emotion, within someone who has yet to begin living out that journey. The film very cleverly reminds us of the short and precious time between the start and end of life, and that, whatever happens in between that time, it’s always important to stand back, and smile at what you have, before it’s too late, and the show is over.
Reason Two: Because You’ll Get There in the End (From The Gold Rush, 1925)
This silent comedy from the great Charlie Chaplin sees his famous “little tramp” character suffer many gruelling and harsh conditions, as he faces the likes of starvation and cannibalism in order to make his dreams come true, but yet, he never stops trying and smiling along the way.
The Gold Rush is, at times, very cruel for a silent comedy. The film has no shame in depicting the world for what it sometimes is, full of loneliness, isolation, and often an unfair attitude towards certain people. But the film isn’t about hanging up your boots during hard times and giving up, the film is about smiling and persevering through those hard times, so that, eventually, you’ll end up in a better place, a place where your welcomed and celebrated, a place where, let’s just say, everybody knows your name.
Reason Three: Because When it Rains, You Can Always Use an Umbrella (from Singin’ in the Rain, 1952)
Singin’ in the Rain is perhaps one of the most positively minded films ever made. The film was directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, and stars Kelly himself, as well as Donald O’ Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. The story and tone of the film becomes very fluffy and light-hearted at times, but this never for one moment takes anything away from its hugely infectious positive energy and rhythmically wonderful sense of skilled filmmaking.
The film is home to one of the world’s most famous and recognisable movie songs, but even past this, Singin’ in the Rain is a shiny and squeaky-clean treasure chest of smiling delights. The tone of the film is so upbeat and positive that it’s sometimes hard to believe that never once does it become awkwardly cheesy, or forcefully happy. Singin’ in the Rain takes place within a world of beautiful smiling people, a place where heartbreak and regret doesn’t really exist, and if it does, it’s handled with quite easily, with little upset. The film may even sound too positive for some, however, once you’ve visited it, you may never want to leave its extravagantly Technicolor world of optimism.
Reason Four: Because Even When You Have Nobody, You’re Never Really Alone (from The Red Balloon, 1956)
The Red Balloon is a simple and playful little film about a young boy who finds the sweetest and most innocent friendship within nothing more than a harmless, yet somehow very cheeky little red balloon. The film is very short with little dialogue, almost drifting into the territory of silent cinema at times. However, what the film lacks in words, it more than makes up for in emotion.
The Red Balloon is perhaps one of the most smile inducing and pleasant film experiences you could ever wish to have. The film lives within a childhood nostalgia for all things kind-hearted, since we grow so fond and affectionate towards this little red balloon, as well as the boy who befriends it. The young boy often seems lonely and alienated within this world dominated by a chaotic sense of modern life. Nobody seems to have much time for the boy, that is, of course, apart from the red balloon, which cheers up the boy, giving him a sense of place and meaning within the world; helping him see that, really, it’s not all so bad if you take the time to look around you, and smile at what you find.
Reason Five: Because Giving Up Never Solved Anything (from Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1989)
Kiki’s Delivery Service is an anime film from director Hayao Miyazaki, the same genius who directed many other anime masterpieces such as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. The film follows a young witch named Kiki, who moves away from her family and into a new distant town in order to gain some independence. After a short time of not quite knowing how to connect with the people of this scary new place, Kiki soon starts her own delivery service, made possible by her unique ability to fly.
The film is a beautiful and sensual experience for all interested in cinema, especially anime films. While watching the film, it’s sometimes easy to wonder at what moment the big bad guy is going to burst in, just in time to ruin everything for our hero, but in fact, this never happens. The film isn’t about overcoming the obstacles presented to you from other people; it’s about overcoming the obstacles you lay down for yourself. But, most importantly, the film is about holding on to hope while there is little to go around; when all you want to do is give up and go back home, Kiki’s Delivery Service shows us that, along with a little kindness and openness, a nice smile can get you most anywhere.
And so, we come to the end of our list. But remember, the next time you open the morning cereal box to discover that, yet again, the little toy or stick on tattoo is missing, just stand back, breathe deeply, and smile; everything is going to be just fine.
Although that little stick on tattoo might have looked pretty super cool.