Welcome to our widows and widowers film festival! There’s something for everyone and all are available on DVD or a streaming service.
Best For Telling It Like It Is
Sleepless In Seattle
He let us know what to expect when we were too busy thinking he was cute to pay any attention. Sam Baldwin, played by Tom Hanks, is the world’s best known widower in this classic from Nora Ephron. Surrounded by people who don’t quite get it, he charts his own course, until his son and Meg Ryan intervene.
Best For Watching With Kids
We Bought A Zoo
Matt Damon is surrounded by sceptics, lots of animals and some teens with their own troubles. At least his youngest still believes in him, even when he loses faith in himself. This is a trip to the zoo, with something for everyone and a vital life lesson or two along the way, all without leaving the sofa.
Best Analogy Of Grief As The Battle Of A Lifetime
This warm and wise film shows how a man frozen in time by grief, slowly finds his way back into his life. It’s a battle against ageism, against people who’ve lost patience with a man still in mourning and against the loss of hope and self-respect. The magic wand of romance is only a faint possibility here; this isn’t about a bold new start, it’s about integrating past, present and future.
Best Foreign Language
Audrey Tatou is Nathalie in this French dramedy where, yes, new love is the answer, but her journey is made with considerably more charm and subtlety than in most films. Tatou’s anguish, against the soundtrack, which was written just after the death of the composer’s fiancé, make a heart-rending combination. However, comedy arrives in the shy but amiable form of Francois Damiens.
Best Widow In A Musical
A widowed match-maker, singing and dancing in her pursuit of a new man, starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau – what’s not to love? Lavish, loud and funny, with tunes that you’ll hum for days to come, this is the perfect solution to a restless, grey Bank Holiday.
Best Slow Brooding
Things We Lost In The Fire
Benicio Del Toro struggles with addiction while trying to help the family of his best friend. His friend’s widow, Halle Berry, invites him in and then evicts him, needs him and then lashes out at him while her children and neighbours embrace him.
There is a lot of watching in this film. There’s no shortage of drama and tension either but there is a lot – a lot – of people gazing across walls, through barbed wire and down from watchtowers at each other.
Best Comedy Haunting
Truly Madly Deeply
This very English, very nineties film is still a delight although it turned twenty-five this year. We are not spared the depth of Juliet Stevenson’s pain in the opening scenes with her therapist but the tone soon gets lighter as her friends rally round, she meets a nice new man and her dead husband and his friends move in with her.
If you can bring yourself to watch Ghost or P.S. I Love You, you’re made of stronger stuff than me.
Best Grieving Father And Widower
The Water Diviner
Russell Crowe stars in and directed this film, which is based on true events. Believing their sons have been killed in the First World War, Crowe’s wife commits suicide and he sets off to bring their bodies home, in a story brimming with courage and honour.
Love Is All You Need
Pierce Brosnan is the grumpy widower in this Danish comedy where parents behave badly at their children’s wedding. The central character, played by Trine Dyrholm, has cancer and has just discovered her husband’s affair. The setting is a sun-drenched Italian coast with acres of lemon groves you can almost smell through the screen.
Best Revenge Comedy Romp
The title refers to a village of wealthy widows on a hilltop in Ireland. It is the 1920s and the widows look down, literally and figuratively, on the people in the neighbouring town but their strict social order is disrupted by the arrival of a glamorous new widow who isn’t quite what she seems.
Best For No Happy Endings For Anyone
This Palestinian-Israeli film is the story of two women: a widow whose land is being encroached upon and the wife of the man doing the encroaching. They are allies who cannot talk to each other but seek understanding and offer support in a few transitory moments snatched from events beyond their control.
Best for Widowed Characters That Don’t Say Much About Grief
Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are sisters and witches, battling an evil Goran Visnjic (who played the memorable widowed Dr Kovac in ER) and trying to evade prosecution by Aidan Quinn (who first set our hearts a flutter as Dez in Desperately Seeking Susan). It’s a bit of a girl power fairytale and lots of fun at that.
Dan In Real Life
Steve Carell plays the widower who falls for his brother’s girlfriend during a family get together. The weather looks cold and the humour is wry while Carell’s knotted angst indulges you in the thought that you’d probably handle things a bit better, should that particular situation ever arise.
Best For Festive Widowers
Jude Law’s dashing widowed dad is the perfect English gentleman next to Cameron Diaz’s all American singleton. This is a heart-warming, light but lovely tale, with additional comedy from Jack Black and Kate Winslet, all handled expertly by Director Nancy Meyers.
A star-studded ensemble cast and note-perfect writing make this a real treat. If you can forgive the widowed dad here for getting Claudia Schiffer for Christmas then Liam Neeson is superb.