In typical filmmaking, the mundane experiences of everyday life are spruced up in some way. The plot is fused with drama, action, or comedy unlike what normally happens in real life.
Movies often take the normal and boring aspects of living, elevating that with an enthralling sequence of events. A slice of life movie is the exact opposite of that. It’s a film that depicts life in its unadulterated form as opposed to being staged for the cameras.
A slice of life movie portrays an experience of naturalism, offering an everyday experience in a realistic representation of how the world works. A slice of life movie usually breaks the norms of narrative or storytelling. It offers little to no exposition, and there’s no plot to it most of the time.
A key ingredient for a slice of life movie is uniqueness. The best slice of life movies often depict parts of society that are misunderstood or unknown to many. It’s this unknown that draws audiences to a good slice of life movie.
A slice of life movie, as its name suggests, plunges characters into everyday life. We get a “slice” or sample of that experience in film. Recently, I wrote an article about how to film your day as a vlogger. In a way, a slice of life movie is a larger version of a day-in-your life video.
The life you’re living right now is a great example. There’s no plot to guide your steps. Your actions are random and there’s no end to your story. That’s exactly what a slice of life movie is.
There have been some great ones over the years. Here are 3 popular ones I’ve watched in the past year.
An unemployed, single mother and her six-year-old daughter Moonee are the subject of the Florida Project. Kind-hearted hotel manager Bobby offers them a roof over their heads.
With homelessness knocking at the door and life a daily struggle to make ends meet, the movie follows their adventure of hardship.
Here’s the trailer:
Most of her summer days are spent in the company of mischievous friends, made up of other motel residents. Bobby juggles all sorts of roles to keep the motel running, also taking on a father figure role for the children. He constantly protects them from the wrath of motel residents who don’t appreciate the kids’ playfulness.
When the situation grows desperate, Moonee’s mother Haley solicits for sex work online. Bobby finds out about the prostitution and implores her to stop with threats of eviction.
One thing leads to another and eventually, Moonee is set to go into foster care. She escapes before that and runs away to Walt Disney World with her friend Jancey.
The Florida Project is a slice of life movie so good that many people believed it to be based on a true story. This documentary-esque movie is the work of director Sean Baker who is famous for his unique take on filmmaking.
This movie lacks objective and direction in that it’s not advancing any plot. It simply puts life under a microscope, dissecting its unpredictability in the most interesting of ways.
Many of its actors are relatively unknown, save for Willem Dafoe.
Most of them were making only their first film appearance. Sean Baker is known for blending seasoned actors and newbies into his movies and he nails that in this film.
Talented director Jon Favreau has amassed a reputation in big-budget films and his immense contribution to the multi-billion franchise that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In 2014 though, the talented producer scaled things down a notch. He sought to write a film that goes back to basics, according to his own words.
Here’s the trailer:
Chef is that movie he envisioned. It is, in simple words, a movie about cooking. This slice of life film enthralls with its simplicity and an amazing portrayal of what would be boring everyday life.
The storyline is more entertaining than its sounds though. Carl Casper is a big-time head chef at Gauloise, a reputable dining establishment in Los Angeles.
He spends most of his days at work and is out of touch with his family, which includes ex-wife Inez and son Percy. Everybody loves him at the restaurant except for owner Riva.
The two regularly clash as the boss restricts Carl’s creativity forcing him to stick to classics. They eventually fall out after a scathing review by a food blogger, when Carl is forced to cook up a meal he didn’t want.
Carl loses it after a second bad reviewer by the same blogger. His public meltdown ensures no restaurant in town would touch him even with a six-foot pole.
Unable to find work and humiliated, he journeys to Miami with his ex-wife and soon. He falls in love with Cuban cuisine and starts selling out of a food truck.
An unexpected turn of events sees Ramsey, the food critic behind his downfall, bankroll a new restaurant where Carl is the head chef. Carl grows closer with his family once more and even gets back with Inez.
Deeply emotional and memorable, Short Term 12 is a low-budget film fueled by a talented writer-director and cast. Although not a true story, it is forged from real-life events.
This slice of life film is inspired by director Daniel Cretton’s experience working in a care home for at-risk teens. He was out of work at the time, straight out of school, when a friend suggested he joined him at a group facility for teens.
His experience was not as he expected. The journey took a bigger emotional toll than he bargained for.
Short Term 12 is Cretton’s cinematic adaptation of life as a care worker for at-risk teens. It feels more like a documentary than a movie.
The handheld camera work is largely responsible for that, in addition to the authenticity of dialogues.
Conversations between characters feel genuine and natural, unlike a movie script, further adding to its slice of life appeal. The director’s past shapes the script which has been highly commended for its realism and richness in authenticity.
Following the life of a tight-knit community of workers, Short Term 12 stars Grace Howard as the lead character. The young care worker’s life is turned on its head by a troubled new arrival, Jayden, who proves a hard nut to crack.
Grace and her colleagues help the kids battle their demons while they face their own as a ghost of her past comes back to haunt her.
Now that I’ve shared 3 of my favorite slice of life movies…
It’s time to think about this unique style of filmmaking. Is it worth making a slice of life movie?
Slice of life movies tend to do well in film festivals. Many cinephiles are tired of the same ‘ol Hollywood blockbuster sequels. They want something unique, something few have done before.
This is where slice of life movies come in. Dramas, comedies or dramedies about a specific part of society (misunderstood or relatively unknown to many) will do well in film festivals.
The uniqueness in slice of life movies will attract cinephiles who judge and attend many of these film festivals. It’s this very reason slice of life movies will do well in the festival circuit.
It might even get picked up by a distributor or a streaming platform, like Netflix. The movie may not net millions like a Transformer movie.
But a relatively unknown director can make a name for himself or herself from the accolades that come from success on the festival circuit.
So if you’re a filmmaker 🎥
Watch and study the best slice of life movies. Then start working on that script!
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