Film · Life

Alyssa’s Life with Film: My Love Letter to Cinema

After just experiencing Amelie for the first time, I felt compelled to write this ode to cinema, my greatest love. Tears are stinging my eyes, and my heart is full of emotion. Film has changed, and ultimately saved, my life.

As a young girl, I was absolutely obsessed with the classic Disney films (The Little Mermaid, Snow White, etc.). I watched these movies hundreds of times, and memorized every word to the iconic musical numbers that graced each film’s score. I identified with these princesses; I always felt different than everyone else, and yearned for a life full of adventure and meaning. I was born and raised in the Bible Belt, where pretty much everyone is Christian and conservative. I never really agreed with the values and views of my hometown, and always felt like I was broken, that there was something wrong with me. These films showed me that there was a whole world out there, full of people with differing beliefs and viewpoints. They told me it wasn’t just ok to be different, but it was beautiful and amazing. I had dreams of being an actress, and told everyone I knew when they asked that really stupid question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (no one believed in me, by the way).

Through my adolescent years, I again felt broken, due to the fact that I didn’t develop romantic feelings for people unless they were close friends. I didn’t crave human companionship, and I abhorred being touched. I also never had the urge to express my sexuality (again, didn’t have those feelings unless I was majorly into a friend). I lived vicariously through the characters of films I adored (thank you A Walk to Remember, She’s All That, A Cinderella Story, and many more chick flicks of that era). I broke so many hearts because I accepted dates with guys, then would panic because I didn’t actually like them that way and would then proceed to cancel on them. I couldn’t understand why I could feel an attachment to film couples and yearn for them to end up together, but actual, flesh and blood guys did nothing for me. I basically experienced puppy love by imagining I was Laney Boggs, Cher Horowitz, and Jamie Sullivan and that gorgeous guys were dying to be with me (I have a very vivid imagination, ok?!). I only discovered this year that I’m demiromantic/demisexual (if anyone knows of any films that cover this sexuality, please let me know!).

As I continued to grow older and experience new things, my taste in films matured. I craved cinema that delved into dark topics, such as mental health issues. I was steadily succumbing to anxiety and depression, and movies such as Into the Wild, Thirteen, Requiem for a Dream, Girl, Interrupted, and Silver Linings Playbook showed me that I wasn’t alone and that things could be much, much worse. I was slowly killing myself by hiding my true feelings, thoughts, and desires, but cinema let me live out everything I kept locked up in my brain. I didn’t want to go to college, I hated where I lived, my blood boiled when I heard hateful, bigoted opinions, and my faith in God was declining. Why was I being punished so much? Why did I have to suffer from severe anxiety and depression? Why did I develop emetophobia, which has continued to steal so much happiness from me? I started cutting to try to ease my increasingly dark thoughts and the incredible pain I was feeling. I didn’t care if I lived anymore; I sincerely hoped I would go to sleep and never wake up. What kept me going? Being able to rent new movies every Tuesday from Movie Gallery and hoping that one day I would make it out to Los Angeles. Of course, Netflix and Hulu pretty much closed down video rental stores (and I’ve been to LA twice).

Things started to improve when I started my YouTube channel and met people who shared the same interests as me. I wasn’t alone anymore. There were other people who were equally addicted to entertainment as I was, and that dealt with mental illness. They shared the same views as I did. I started to gain hope and strength from the community, and they still help me stay strong to this day. During this time, I developed genuine feelings for a man. I’ll admit it, I fell in love with him. I knew that things probably wouldn’t work out, but I fell anyway. It was the most intense feeling I’ve ever experienced, and I have never experienced such pure joy and happiness as I did during that period. I still haven’t experienced such euphoria in my life again. I watched romantic movies and identified with the lead characters. I had starry eyes and hope.

Of course, things fell apart and I ended up having my heart smashed to pieces. I spent weeks crying until I couldn’t breathe, and I was severely depressed. What got me through that period? Gory, scary horror movies. Up until that point, I had never loved the genre, but something about them helped ease the heartache. A Nightmare on Elm Street, American Mary,Scream, and Friday the 13th cheered me up when nothing else could. Slowly, I gained the courage and strength to live my life again. I still feel an ache in my heart, but I can live with it now.

This has been an exceptionally hard year, but since I’ve started the 100 Day Film Challenge that my friend Rhianna created, I’ve noticed a significant difference in my mental state. I’m not as afraid as I used to be, I’m more open with my thoughts and feelings, and I’m more emotional. My desire to travel has increased,and my determination to fulfill my dreams is as strong as ever.

I can never repay all of the amazing filmmakers who created the works of art that helped me through heartache, illness, misery, and love. If you adore cinema as much as I do, or are a part of the industry, thank you for sharing my passion. It has seriously changed my life, and it’s awakened a hunger in me. A hunger to change the world, to make a difference, to live an extraordinary life. I realize that I’m different, and that’s beautiful. All because individuals just like myself poured their emotions into beautiful works of art for others to experience.

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