The movie lover’s guide to graduation

With coming-of-age stories, there’s often a fascination with senior year of high school. Graduating from high school represents the death of grade school, the inflection point where you leave your hometown in favor of college, the epitome of new: new places, new experiences, new people. College is the beginning of the rest of your life; high school graduation represents the end of everything you knew.

There are a lot of movies, across genres, that show high school graduations. In the past few years, many outlets made lists of them in honor of the graduation ceremonies that were canceled due to the pandemic. But these movies usually stop short of showing the next step, as if college is the happy ending rather than just the beginning.

When I applied for Daily Arts, I wrote about Greta Gerwig’s 2017 coming-of-age story, “Lady Bird,” which came out, aptly enough, when I was a senior in high school. My friends and I made plans to watch the movie with the joke that we would “watch ‘Lady Bird’ and have an existential crisis together,” but high school got busy, and we never got around to it. For my application, I wrote about how I’m pretty sure “Lady Bird” would’ve made me incredibly uncomfortable if I’d watched it as a senior. My main reasoning is a sequence near the end of the movie: Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”) is in college in New York and goes to a party where she gets drunk, throws up and finds herself desperately missing home. It’s a harsh look at college — not as a happy ending, but a whole new world to conquer and get used to.

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The movie lover’s guide to graduation