It was around the time I learned the word “irony” that getting spanked for defending myself by hitting other children did not seem right.
In fact, many things didn’t. Playing games with other children like “Pin the tail on the donkey” was the perfect example. Not only was it nerve-wracking being blindfolded, spun around and bestowed with a sharp object in a mob of people, but shoving it into the crowd was a recipe for disaster. “Mum, are they screaming because I pinned it?” – “No … puncture wound!”
What I enjoyed the most was being allowed time alone. Paradise for me was letting my imagination create fantastical worlds in the garden, going on exploration quests through the park, and observing people from afar that were unaware of the roles they played in my games. I loved building picture frames and placing them against my room’s windows to feel that I had an eternal, dynamic painting.
The following movies are definitely not for children. These movies are for those of us who had a childhood full of amazing solitary adventure and beautiful worlds of wonder. If you were (and still are) something of a lone misfit you might find a bit of your childhood in each one of these films.
4 Introverted Child Movies
Here are my top 4 selections:
Phoebe in Wonderland (2008)
Phoebe is a 9 year old girl that finds herself at the mercy of strange compulsions that make her an outcast. Gifted and sensitive, she lives at home with workaholic writer parents, and although they try to ignore her behavioral issues, Phoebe continues to display them. At times she is seen spitting, cursing, and washing her hands until they turn raw and bleeding – all symptoms of her Tourettes syndrome. Although she is misunderstood, Phoebe’s drama teacher, Miss Dodger, sees the girl’s exceptional creative potential and offers her the role of Alice in the school play. Miss Dodger is a bit weird herself, connecting with Phoebe’s pain because she knows what it’s like to be out of the ordinary. Phoebe’s mum on the other hand embodies the modern parent’s conundrum: she wants to be a good mother but also wants to have a profession, all while dealing with the growing concern of her daughter’s troubling retreat into fantasy as she becomes too invested in her school’s production.
Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto Del Fauno 2006)
This is undoubtedly one of the better known films on this list, and rightly so. It’s a familiar story. Running along the lines of a dark and twisted Alice Wonderland, Wendy in Neverland, and Dorothy in Oz, a girl in her early stages of adolescence is absorbed into a threatening fantasy world where she discovers her own power in a parallel reality. It’s not very often that a movie is capable of reviving feelings of wonder and of creating a morally expansive fairytale. This movie, however, isn’t a fairy tale for children. It’s dark, gory and full of monstrous creatures. Ofelia, the heroine of the story, is a shy young girl forced to entertain herself as her recently formed family settles into their new home nestled deep in the Spanish countryside. As her reality grows grimmer, with a sickly bed-ridden pregnant mother, and a sadistic army captain step-father, she escapes further into her fantasy world. Ofelia is the mythical princess of an underground kingdom, and must complete a trio of life-threatening tasks to reclaim her kingdom. This poignant, sombre and exquisitely filmed movie is definitely a must see.
Jeliza-Rose is the daughter of an ex-rockstar father who’s become a hopeless drug addict. After her mother’s death, the faded rock star opts to escape the painful reality by retreating to a ramshackle remote home. As her father drowns his despair into a drug-induced haze, Jeliza-Rose is left to her own devices, venturing into her own fantasy land. Before long, she makes the acquaintance of a mentally challenged young man called Dickens and his sister, the black veiled, witch-like, one-eyed Dell. Jeliza-Rose and Dickens quickly become friends escaping to their imaginations from a world whose reality is too ghastly. If there was one way to describe this film, it would be like Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho. For many, this film is bizarre, absurd, and plotless, where necrophilia meets with disturbing themes like pedophilia and Taxidermy. Others will appreciate the beauty in the utter madness of this film, and the resilience of the human spirit existing in the most horrific of places. Love it or hate it, this movie is an Outcast film and I like it merely because of that.
The Hedgehog (Le Hérisson 2009)
While the other three movies on this list revolve around fantasy worlds, this movie is a down to earth story. Paloma is a serious, creative and highly articulate but deeply bored young girl bent on ending it all on her upcoming twelfth birthday. From observing the adults in her life she becomes disgusted with the hypocrisies of bourgeois life and its meaningless values. Her mother, a clinically depressed neurotic, talks to plants like children, her father is a preoccupied workaholic, her elder sister is a snooty self-involved teenager, and her sister’s goldfish is a metaphor for human existence. As Kakuro Ozu, a new resident, moves into her building and becomes charmed with Paloma’s personality, they both become fascinated with Madame Renee, the superintendent of the building. Paloma describes this unfriendly and prickly superintendent as a Hedgehog: “falsely lethargic, staunchly private and terribly elegant.” Madame Renee, like Paloma, has a sour outlook on life. She identifies with Leo Tolstoy’s maxim that: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” But Kakuro, a gentleman-philosopher in his own right, can see through both of their facades, and through the friendship developed between these three unusual characters they learn to perceive the world in a different way. If you allow it, this film can have just as much effect on you: You receive death just as you received life, if you’re afraid at the time of death, your death will be fearful. If you’re full of love, your death will be loving.
Don’t forget to leave your suggestions for solitary, or other introverted child movies in the comments section below!