Films to Live By: Surviving University


If you’re about to embark on the weird and wonderful journey that is university, you probably feel like you’ve been thrust into the centre of a coming-of-age drama, wholly unprepared. Have no fear, the next three years or so don’t need to become disaster movie, as our writers have taken a look at some films that might just be able to help you survive the highs and lows that are an inevitable part of Freshers. Unfortunately, none of these films are able to teach you how many jesticles or quad-vods are too many, but some lessons are definitely best learned first-hand…

Paddington 2, dir. by Paul King

Hello. My name’s Paddington – well, it’s not really, but I’m told that no-one understands my real name – and I truly wish you the best of luck as you take your first steps at university! When I first started living away from home, I had travelled all the way across the world from darkest Peru in a lifeboat, and ate marmalade. Bears like marmalade. I got up to so many adventures and found myself in quite a spot of peril more than a couple of times, but I could always rely on the Browns to help me out.

I feel like living away from home can be like that sometimes. It can be awfully scary, but as long as you find some people you can call your family there’ll never be anything you can’t handle together. Just enjoy the adventures! (And always have a marmalade sandwich to hand. For emergencies.)

Sam Law

Boyhood, dir. by Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater managed to pull off an industry first with Boyhood, using the same cast over a total of 12 years to chronicle the coming-of-age of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), an artistic triumph that itself teaches a handy lesson for university – stick at it, it might seem difficult at the beginning, but it will come together at the end. But that’s not the only useful lesson in Boyhood. At the end of the film, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) leaves home and sets off for college; he gets to his accommodation, dumps his belongings on his bed and sets off on a sunset hike with a group of people he’s never met before. Mason has only known these people for a matter of hours, but in that time it’s pretty clear that he’s met some true friends, the potential love of his life, and had an experience he’ll remember long after graduation. So, when you’re settling into university, remember one thing – you’ve got all the time in the world (and plenty hungover mornings) to unpack and pin up your photo collection. Get out, meet your flatmates, and take up every opportunity you’re given – you never know what (or who) might come your way.

Alice O’Hare

School of Rock, dir. by Richard Linklater

Although these kids are way younger than us, and some would say Dewey Finn younger still, as university students we could learn a thing or two from the pupils at Horace Green. When Dewey, a down on his luck guitarist/singer, becomes the unsuitable substitute teacher for a class of talented musicians, he uses them to win the Battle of the Bands. Mind you, he sees the error of his selfish ways, and ultimately shows them that they’re special. He gets them to believe in themselves and to own it, which is a hard thing to do.

So Freshers, you should believe in yourself and your own self-worth, but more importantly, you should listen to other people and see their worth too. Ok, not everyone is going to be your cup of tea at university, but everyone deserves your full attention, and to be heard. It’s easy during freshers, with so many people to meet and so much to do, to lose sight of what coming to uni really is. It’s an opportunity to meet new friends, and new partners, so make sure you make time to see what’s unique in them, as well as figuring out what’s unique about yourself.

Tash Williamson

Starter for 10, dir. by Tom Vaughan

The year is 1985. University Challenge is still relevant. And you’re trying to impress a girl by making the team at university.

So goes the premise of Tom Vaughan’s Starter for 10, the adaptation of David Nicholl’s hit coming of age novel about a fresher in the 1980s. Comfortingly, the film practically exerts British-ness, from its depictions of class divisions to its true to life stereotype characters – which includes Benedict Cumberbatch playing right up to expectation as a stuck-up snob. Whilst the film’s heavily focuses on old-style University Challenge, the timeless quirks and awkward encounters experienced by James McAvoy’s Brian Jackson more than make up for the awfully dated parts of the narrative. You’ll find yourself relating to more of the film than you might even be comfortable with, as Vaughan raises a mirror up to the average university fresher, encouraging you not only to put yourself out into the world but to embrace your failures as successes of a different ilk.

Ellis Murrell

Pitch Perfect, dir. by Jason Moore

The Pitch Perfect trilogy is a shining example of the benefits that come with joining a society at university. When Beca (Anna Kendrick) arrives at Barden University, she is certain that she will drop out by the end of her first year. However, after joining the university’s all-female a cappella group, ‘The Barden Bellas’, she soon discovers a group of friends who make her university years the best of her life. As a member of several societies at Southampton myself, I can say that joining one will be one of the best decisions you could make. Through some of these groups, I have made great friends who share common interests, and doing something outside of your studies provides far more breadth and fulfilment to your overall university experience. I thoroughly recommend following in Beca’s footsteps – whether that be joining an a cappella group or something completely different – and make memories to last a lifetime.

Abi Cutler


About Author

The Edge's Film Editor 2018-2019. Loves all things football, music and politics, but has somehow wound up writing about the movies.

I play/watch/listen to things, then write about playing/watching/listening to things. Special powers include downing two litres of tea at a time and binging a 13-episode Netflix series in only 12 hours. Records Editor 2018/19 OMG

Fourth year French and English student and 2018/19 Live Editor for The Edge.

Culture Editor 2018-19, Third Year History student and all-round nerd. Can be most often found standing outside Netflix HQ campaigning for Daredevil Season 4, playing video games and petting doggos. Certainly won't be working.

Literature Executive 2018/19. Lover of Hobbits, theatre and tea.

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