New year, new you: seven films about reinvention to watch online now

Resolving to make some changes? Here's some inspo


BEN’S AT HOME is a small, thoughtful character study that shows that a good story can be told with minimal resources. At the age of 30, heartbroken sad sack Ben (Dan Abramovici) has decided to abandon the larger world and become a shut-in. People can visit – and maybe even sleep over – but Ben won’t be going anywhere. He sees it as a conscious, self-actualizing choice he’s not sliding into depression but actively embracing his isolation. And if you believe Ben, it’s not such a bad life. Who wouldn’t want to play video games all day and hang around with a cool dog like he does? But a life in splendid isolation requires a supply chain, and Ben soon finds himself falling for Jess (Jessica Embro), the nice woman who delivers his dinners. (See full Ben’s At Home review). 

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Watch online: iTunes


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MAGGIE’S PLAN is a dramedy about a young woman who imagines she can take control of her life – and others’ – oozes charm thanks to the unique presence of Greta Gerwig. She plays college administrator Maggie, who hits up an old friend (Travis Fimmel) for sperm only to find herself pregnant after suddenly hooking up with married prof John (Ethan Hawke). Three years later we catch up with her, now living with daughter Lily and John, an impossibly self-absorbed writer whose interest in her is directly proportional to her ability to gush over his still-unfinished novel. Soon she’s planning her exit from the relationship. (See full Maggie’s Plan review). 

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Watch online: iTunes, Netflix 


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COMPLETE UNKNOWN may not be fully satisfying as a drama, exactly, but it leads the viewer to a really interesting place. Set over one night, the film stars Michael Shannon as a comfortably complacent New Yorker confronted at his birthday party with the unexpected reappearance of a high school girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) who vanished without a word and now goes by a different name. (See full Complete Unknown review). 

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Watch online: iTunes


The DUFF

The DUFF‘s premise sounds like an update of the 90s touchstone She’s All That, but it has a little more on its mind. When a thoughtless comment makes high-school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) realize she’s her group’s Designated Ugly Fat Friend – the one others keep around to make themselves look more attractive – she decides to challenge the accepted social structure. It occasionally plays like a mashup of Mean Girls and Easy A, but Whitman’s performance gives The DUFF a spiky energy all its own. (See full The DUFF review). 

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Watch online: iTunes


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How you perceive Alicia Vikander’s Ava says a lot about you, according to Alex Garland.

EX MACHINA is a sleek, minor-key sci-fi film about a programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) tasked by a visionary (Oscar Isaac) to evaluate his latest project: an artificial intelligence in the form of a female android (Alicia Vikander). It’s the directorial debut of screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later…, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go), who’s as fascinated as ever by the intersection of human desire and technology: the film is at its best when the characters are simply talking to each other, creating a delicate, hypnotic back-and-forth between the humans and the new creature in their midst. (See full Ex Machina review).

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Watch online: Netflix, iTunes


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GUIDANCE is a darkly comic look at David (Mills), an underemployed, alcoholic and deeply closeted former child star who scams his way into working as a high school guidance counsellor and becomes popular with the students by plying them with booze, pot and bad advice. (See full Guidance review).

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Watch online: iTunes


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THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY finds Ben Stiller – who directs as well as stars – as Walter Mitty, a photo archivist at Life Magazine who after decades of simple competence launches himself on a global adventure in search of a missing image for the magazine’s final issue. The movie disappears into Walter’s imagination in a series of clever set pieces, but the real world is always more important, Stuart Dryburgh’s cinematography growing more and more beautiful as the film progresses. (See full The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty review).

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Watch online: Netflix

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