Oops. You screwed up. Any legitimate therapist will tell you that guilt is a useless emotion which impedes the process of personal development. I like to dumb it down further – get over it. What, did you squish a bug? Did you under-tip? Did you get drunk and tell a friend what you really thought of his suburban adolescence memoir? In Mike Cahill’s debut feature film, Another Earth, young MIT-bound astrophysics nut Rhoda is at fault for a car wreck that kills nearly an entire family. Though she’s lucky enough to be forgiven, Rhoda is so wracked with remorse that she’d literally rather leave the planet than live with what she’s done. As someone who once exposed loved ones to my student film reel, I can certainly relate to such a desire. But if you’re still torturing yourself about a past mistake, just keep your hair on, drama queen. There will always be someone who’s done something worse than you. That is, unless you relate in any way to one of the following five examples. If you’re one of these folks then I’ve got nothing. Only Oprah can help you now.
Okay, even if you did commit the unforgivable sin of under-tipping, there is no way you are cringing as hard as this chick. True, Sophie’s terrible choice was made with an actual gun to her head, but there just isn’t a self-help section big enough to save her. Not until Chicken Soup for the Worst Mom Ever is finally released. If you know what The Choice is then just seeing the title of this film should set you straight. If you don’t then I’m not spoiling the horror for you, because a) Meryl Streep’s performance in this film is the reason she’s Meryl Streep, and b) if I had to sit through that scene at the train station with my own mother, then you can handle it with a buddy and a (big, strong, bottomless) drink.
As an eight-year-old, I once ruined Christmas by getting the chicken pox. When a handful of relatives came down with spots after making cookies with me three days before the holiday, all merriment was officially cancelled. As patient zero, I spent that Christmas in quarantine and every one since apologizing. But you know what Aunt Ellen? Chicken pox is itchy, but it’s no viral hemorrhagic diathesis, okay? I don’t see you bleeding from your eyes. Why don’t you take a look at this classic disease-paranoia action flick and thank your lucky stars I didn’t bring my illegally smuggled pet monkey to our cookie party? Outbreak’s bad guy – somehow played by the compulsively adorable Patrick Dempsey – doesn’t live long enough to realize just how big a boo-boo he’s made, but if he had I’m sure one look from you would have him weeping blood anyway.
Like those alive during the Kennedy assassination, I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the plot of this movie. I never thought I’d actually watch it, but when someone double-dog-dares you, you’re legally bound to comply. Having absorbed all the hype about the gory details, I made it through with minimal shrieking – a fact I’ve yet to stop bragging about. If you’re still sitting at home thinking about what a jerk you are, may I please introduce Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser, who, I’m guessing, will never be cast as a love interest). I really don’t know who I’m more scared of, our villain or Tom Six, the writer/director who created this maniac. But like the Kennedy assassination, this film can guarantee two things: giving you some much needed perspective, and leaving you open-mouthed in front of your television.
Dr. Heiter might be bad, but let’s face it – your parents are worse. Giorgos Lanthimos’s film, Dogtooth, exemplifies just what a pain in the neck our folks can be. If you’ve ever spent a weekend grounded without television then you know how these kids feel. Except that in this case they’ve been grounded since, like, birth. Grounded and then some. Trapped in a world that ends at the driveway, these teenagers live by the rules of their maniacally abusive patriarch, whose control is so complete they have no idea they’ve been raised as suburban prisoners. In reviewing this film to pick out an ordeal that might exemplify their horrific existence, I tried to find one that wouldn’t render this column too obscene for office reading. The best I could do? They’re forced to kill a kitten. That’s dad on a good day. So, I’ll revise my earlier statement: if you’ve ever been grounded forever, abused to the point of psychosis and the easiest part of your day is cat-murder, then you probably know where these kids are coming from. Parents, man.
And if, by chance, you have actually sacrificed your children, tortured your family, unleashed an epidemic or sewn three people together mouth-to-anus? Uh. Well. At least you’re not Hitler, right?
Kelsey Miller works in film in Manhattan and on her blog in Brooklyn.