Rusting trees, crunchy leaves cartwheeling in the wind, bright umbrellas and warm scarves – autumn is here and with it our desire to puddle-stomp in wellington boots and snuggle in front of a warm fire. For lovers of fall everywhere, we’ve gathered six films set in autumn to satisfy your wanderlust as the evenings draw in.
1. Japan – Little Forest: Summer/Autumn (2014)
This live action version of a Daisuke Igarashi’s manga series is about a young city woman’s return to Tohuku, a mountainous region in the northeast of Japan’s Honshu island. The eye-level opening credits draw viewers into a forested landscape as we follow Ichiko’s bicycle ride back home. Seductive in its simplicity, Little Forest is told mainly through culinary vignettes, with close-ups including mossy wood being chopped, a freshly-baked loaf being removed from a small log-burning stove, and cob-nuts being plucked from trees to make home-made ‘nutera’. Your mouth will water as a recipe for candied chestnuts does the rounds in the village, each cook adding their own touch of brandy, soy sauce, or wine.
2. Vermont, USA – Dead Poets Society (1989)
The quintessential coming-of-age movie, set in an elite fictional Vermont boarding school (based on writer Tom Schulman’s experiences at school), Dead Poets Society features one of Robin Williams’s finest performances as inspirational English teacher, John Keating, plus stand-out roles for baby-faced Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. A clandestine midnight poetry club in a cave, roads lined with gilded trees, bicycles careering through fields of scattering geese, and chunky-knit sweaters tied around shoulders…it’s a poignant modern classic that provides comfort food for the soul and bears multiple viewings. If you haven’t already seen it, seize the day and start a new autumn tradition.
3. Norway – HØST: Autumn Fall (2015)
Described as a ‘love letter to Oslo’, HØST is a black comedy following Ingvild, a stage manager at Norway’s National Theatre, who despises actors but finds herself entangled with two of them. Taking you to seldom-seen Oslo locations, HØST will entangle you too, with duffle coats, tweed hats, bookshops, illicit sex, illicit cigars, and literal tumbles into piles of autumnal leaves.
4. Connecticut, USA – Far From Heaven (2002)
Yes – New England again, and not for the last time, but you’ll forgive the repetition when you see the film. According to the British Film Institute, ‘autumn has never looked lovelier on screen’ than in this period drama by Tod Haynes. Connecticut in fall provides the glorious backdrop to a dark underworld of prejudice. It’s 1957 and housewife Cathy Whitaker (played by an apparently ageless Julianne Moore) is about to experience first-hand the reality of conservative values, when her husband reveals he is gay and she embarks on a love affair with her black gardener.
5. France – An Autumn Tale (1998)
The concluding part of Eric Rohmer’s Tales of the Four Seasons series, this drama is set in France’s Rhone Valley, where winemaker Magali is coaxed into placing a dating ad in a local paper, although convinced this will not change her life. Harvest time in France’s winemaking country radiates through the screen, with exquisite use of birdsong, wind and shifting light evoking the season and its changes.
6. Connecticut, USA – The Ice Storm (1997)
One of my favourite films of all time, Ang Lee’s adaption of Rick Moody’s 1994 period novel, brings together a stellar cast (Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Christini Ricci, Elijah Wood) at the top of their game. An autumn into winter classic, set over Thanksgiving weekend in 1973, The Ice Storm focuses on two neighbouring American families at a time of sexual revolution and social upheaval. Memorable for its caustic humour and relentless sense of impending doom, the movie’s locations – a teenage kiss by a drained swimming pool, modernist houses surrounded by looming trees – are almost like characters in themselves.
Production designer Mark Friedberg talks fascinatingly about choosing the locations here.
Looking for other films to inspire your travels?