Slice of life movies have served different purposes throughout the years. Some have aimed to preserve a time that feels like it’s been awhile since those events happened, while others are actively feeding on the nostalgia of a generation that really needs a reminder of what their childhoods looked like. In English-language movies, these have taken on different forms, from movies like Minari capturing the life of an immigrant and his family, or The Florida Project capturing one girl’s childhood.
International slice of life movies are often not seen as such by foreign audiences, as everyday life in another culture looks unfamiliar. However, by consuming films that offer a different perspective on the mundane, it’s a window to become more empathetic and understanding. Here are 10 movies from around the world that find themselves dwelling on everyday life.
10 Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019)
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom has been one of the few Bhutanese movies to break into mainstream international film discussions in the past few decades. In the film, a teacher, Uygen, living in the city of Bhutan, dreams of moving to Australia and becoming a singer. When he is assigned to the most remote school and village to teach at, he dreads the idea, but when he arrives, this could change his life forever.
A Lesson in Simple Things
Although Lunana is set in the remote mountains and corners of Bhutan, it shows what life is like for many children living in such places. Unable to get a good education or have basic resources, life is much more simple for these communities, despite them having just as big dreams as their urban counterparts. Stream on Netflix
9 Little Forest (2018)
Little Forest might not be at the top of many lists for must-watch Korean movies, but it certainly is worth checking out at least once. Song Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) is tired of life in the big city, and makes the executive decision to go back to her hometown in search of a grander meaning of her life. There, she reconciles with her familial connections to the land and objects, as well as the childhood friend she left behind.
Returning to Our Roots
Like Lunana, the premise of life in a traditional Korean village is more simple than a city like Seoul. As the film shows, life is quieter there, making it the perfect place for the characters to grapple with their situations and decide what they really want from their lives. Stream on Tubi
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8 Ikiru (1952)
Released in 1952, the movie Ikiru is now a staple in Japanese cinema, and its director, Akira Kurosawa, is considered one of the greatest directors of all time. Inspired by a Tolstoy novel, the film is about Kanji Watanabe, an older man who discovers he’s now terminally ill. Before this, his family seemingly couldn’t care less at times, and he worked the same job for decades. He needs to discover the meaning of life before it’s too late, and he goes off to do just that.
Finding the Meaning of Life
Ikiru is a movie seeped in the post-war life of Japan, and a big question the movie deals with is: what does it mean to truly be alive? As the main character tries to discover that, it becomes an excellent testament to both filmmaking and storytelling. Stream on Max
7 Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)
Cléo from 5 to 7 is one of the big films in director Agnès Varda’s filmography, and is definitely one of her must-watch movies overall. It takes place over the course of hours in a day, and its main character, Cleo, begins with getting her fortune told. It’s mentioned she has a bad force in her life, and she may die soon, and Cleo goes out on her day with this in mind. As it turns out, she’s waiting for a test to confirm if she has cancer, making the situation more dire.
The Mundane Nature of Two Hours
One would imagine that two singular hours of someone’s life couldn’t make up an entire hour and a half movie, but Varda proves that it can. With a tight screenplay and vision, this is a story seeped into the world around the main character. Stream on Max
6 Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was released in 1975, and decades later, some consider it to be one of the best movies to have ever come out, topping Sight & Sound’s list in 2022. Directed and created by Chantal Akerman, the main character in this movie is Jeanne Dielman. A widowed mother, the movie follows her daily life as she does her chores throughout the house over the course of three days, as well as how she earns money through sex work. She does this without her young son knowing, but her routine begins to fall apart one day.
A Break in the Schedule
The beginning of the film is very much seeped in the daily life of one woman, but as the movie progresses, it shows how it really goes off track. It’s a lesson in minimalism, as well as the power of simpler stories overall. Stream on Max
5 Daisies (1966)
1966’s Daisies came out in Czechoslovakia with much fanfare, as it ended up getting banned by certain political parties at the time due to how critical it was of the politics the film stemmed from. It takes on the perspective of two young women, both called Marie, as they navigate the world by pranking people around them. At first glance, a lot of their activities are indulgent, but there’s a lot packed into this film.
Feminist Critiques Through Daily Life
As the main characters lounge around in Daisies, the filmmaker is actually making heavy-handed critiques about how women are viewed by society, as well as the environment of Czechoslovakia at the time. Brilliant, yet often unappreciated, this is a movie that must be on any cinephile’s to-watch list. Stream on Max
4 Happy Hour (2015)
One of director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s earlier works, Happy Hour is a massive movie to get through — literally. Clocking in at five hours and 17 minutes, there’s a lot of ground to cover in this movie. In it, four middle-class Japanese women living in Kobe go about their daily lives. However, they each have their own problems and issues they bring to the table each time they meet, amping up the drama whenever the movie needs more of it.
Capturing Life in Its Finest Forms
Many might find themselves daunted by the movie’s run time, but for those interested in film capturing reality down to the timing, this is the perfect movie for that. With enough time to explore each character, it’s a unique opportunity to examine cinema and its effects on mimicking reality. Rent on Prime Video
3 The Intouchables (2011)
The Intouchables was released in French cinemas back in 2011, and it was a smash hit among French audiences. An aristocrat finds himself in an unfortunate accident at the beginning of the movie, leaving him a quadriplegic. Unable to take care of himself properly anymore, he decides to hire someone. Whom he lands on is a young man from the projects, and, over the course of the movie, the two become closer.
Heartwarming and Based on a True Story
The Intouchables is a very simple movie when it comes to its premise, but it is the perfect example to show how many people aren’t as different as we’d like to think they are. It’s a story that touches close to the heart, and offers hope for many when it comes to humanity and showing kindness towards others. Rent on Prime Video
2 The Hand of God (2021)
An Italian movie, The Hand of God gained acclaim after winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Set in Naples during the 1980s, the protagonist, Fabietto, doesn’t have big aspirations for his life. But when his parents decide to build a new home, he stays at their old home one day, allowing him to survive after his parents die of carbon monoxide poisoning in the new home. Suddenly, Fabietto feels more alone than ever, and needs to find his way in life after tragedy.
A Difficult Coming-of-Age
The Hand of God finds its spark in the quieter moments throughout the film, making it one of those movies that can be appreciated not just for its visuals and storytelling, but for how it just exists in a scene. It might not be for everyone, but it certainly has an impact after watching. Stream on Netflix
1 Tokyo Story (1953)
Tokyo Story is one of Yasujiro Ozu’s most famous works, and that’s saying a lot, considering the director’s impressive filmography. It tells the story of an elderly couple living with their daughter, who, out of her five siblings, is the only child remaining. During the film, the parents decide to go to Tokyo to visit their other surviving children, where they realize the changing attitudes among young people when it comes to family and culture.
Leaving Behind a Distant Past
Tokyo Story is about the mundane in a visit to Tokyo, but it offers insight into a rapidly changing culture in Japan after the war. It’s the work of a master technically, showing how film can be utilized to mark the passing of time. Stream on Max