Streaming Spotlight: moving house in the movies

The thrills, spills and perils of relocation

by Jennie Kermode

Have you ever noticed how many films begin with moving house? No, not moving houses - though suggestions from Up to Howl’s Moving Castle were made when we were compiling this – but relocating to another home, managing all the chaos along the way. It’s tough on kids but can lead to magical surprises, whereas if you suspect that you’re in a horror movie, you’re probably best off never attempting it at all. This selection of titles will give you a taste of the adventures that moving can bring.

Vivarium
Vivarium

Vivarium - Chili, Amazon Prime

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) dream of getting a house together, but on their modest salaries, it seems impossible. Then, one day, they meet an estate agent who promises them a solution and invites them to follow him to one of those out-of-town, new-build estates where all the houses look perfectly charming and perfectly identical. The problem comes when he subsequently disappears and try as they might, they can’t find their way out of the estate. Lorcan Finnegan’s surreal satire takes on not only consumerism but expectations of the life course, with sympathy for cuckoos who never really have homes of their own.

Toy Story
Toy Story

Toy Story - Disney+, Chili

Moving with kids is inevitably chaotic; moving with toys all the more so. In the first instalment of the much-loved Pixar franchise (which would return to this theme in part three as its human hero prepared to move away for college), cowboy hero Woody has the whole thing planned out. Everybody has a moving buddy and knows exactly what they’re supposed to do. But when Woody and new arrival Buzz Lightyear are trapped in the home of an enemy, they must resort to desperate measures in order to catch their ride. Non-stop animated family fun combines with every young child’s concern, on moving, that non-one must be left behind.

Insidious
Insidious

Insidious - Netflix, Amazon Prime, Chili

Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) have really looked forward to moving into a new, larger home with their kids, but from the outset things go wrong. There are strange noises in the night, worrying sounds captured by the baby monitor during the day, tuff mysteriously disappearing. When their son becomes ill and falls into a coma it’s the last straw for Renai; she blames the house and begs her husband to agree to move again. He breaks with horror film convention by saying yes – but all s not as it seems in this twisty, atmospheric chiller by James Wan. Sometimes a new home doesn’t mean a fresh start.

Cheaper By The Dozen
Cheaper By The Dozen

Cheaper By The Dozen - Disney +, Apple TV, Google Play

If you want to explore the different stresses caused by moving house at different ages, there’s nothing like following a family with 12 kids, but this Steve Martin-led adaptation of the Gilbreth family memoirs never risks getting too deep, with plenty of mischief and mayhem to balance its more serious scenes. It’s one of the most perfectly distilled takes on Martin’s trademark character and the humanity he brings to it keeps it from getting bogged down in sexist stereotypes. Numerous moving-related issues are addressed, from parting with friends to being bullied in a new school, ultimately forcing serious reflection on the decision that led to the upheaval.

Driveways
Driveways

Driveways - SkyGo, NowTV

Kathy (Hong Chau) and her young son Cody (Lucas Jaye) are only supposed to be moving temporarily. Kathy has to clear out the home of her recently deceased sister so that it can be sold, but this proves to be a bigger job than expected. Struggling with grief and with her former partner’s failure to pay child support, she doesn’t have much time to help her son adjust, and his own reactions to what’s happening around him are compounded by shyness, making him a target for bullies. But when the elderly Korean War veteran living next door (Brian Dennehy) overcomes his prejudice and reaches out to him, life starts looking up for everyone in this warm-hearted indie drama.

Sinister
Sinister

Sinister - Chili, Netflix

Ellison (Ethan Hawke) has a history of moving his family around as he immerses himself in areas where murders have occurred in order to write his books. Actually moving into the murder house is a new one, however, and causes significant family friction – but it’s the move yet to come that will really cause trouble. Scott Derrickson’s clever thriller, whose sequel adds a further twist to the relocation plot, relaunched the actor’s film career and features great supporting performances from James Ransone and Clare Foley. It blends an unnerving occult theme with the day to day tension that a poorly planned move can cause.

My Neighbour Totoro
My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro - Netflix

Sometimes it’s necessary to move in difficult circumstances. Satsuki and Mei relocate to the countryside with their father so that they can be closer to their mother whilst she’s in hospital, but though the family is under strain, the excitement of exploring their new home – a traditional minka full of hidden corners, riddled with susuwatari (or ‘soot sprites’) – makes up for a lot, and the surrounding gardens and forest provide an extra thrill, even before they meet their unusual neighbour. This evergreen Studio Ghibli animation is the perfect way to soothe worries about a move and spark the imagination.

Home

Did we say no moving houses? Well, maybe just one. This little documentary is a real treat.

Home

short film from thomas gleeson on Vimeo.

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