Illustration of a person sitting on a pile of film reels watching

the sunset

Image by Grace J. Kim/ All Rights Reserved


This week’s Pause is written by Lily Percy:

When the pandemic first began, like many of us, I found myself turning to the coping mechanisms that have helped me survive difficult times throughout my life: Eating comfort food. Listening to music at loud volumes and dancing. Taking long walks. Happy hours – albeit virtual – with friends. Notably absent from that list was watching movies, even though movies have always been my church. I’ve relished them as a solo activity, as they create a raw and vulnerable opening inside of me that I don’t feel comfortable sharing with others. So, with all of the feelings that the pandemic was bringing to the surface, as a single woman living alone, it made sense that I didn’t find myself wanting to watch movies. But even as I mourned their loss, something magical happened.

Dear friends from all around the country began reaching out to set up virtual movie dates. I hadn’t shared what I was experiencing with any of them, so they couldn’t have known that the connection they were seeking was one that I was avoiding. Suddenly I found myself watching movies with friends three to five times a week, opening myself up to them, finding new ways to grieve, cry and laugh, with the movies we watched sitting together with us.  

One of those movies was the haunting The Sound of Metal, starring Riz Ahmed, one of my favorite actors. His performance is mesmerizing and the movie is intimate and powerful, the kind that leaves you thinking and asking questions of yourself, not just the characters or the plot, for days after. While promoting the movie, Riz talked a lot about the themes and questions that the movie left him reflecting on, especially during the pandemic. He shared that this is one of the reasons why he loved making the movie — and why he believes we all love watching stories — because we’re all trying to find out about ourselves, to get closer to answering the question: who am I?

This question subconsciously became the guiding light for the interviews that we recorded for the third and final season of our podcast, This Movie Changed Me, excerpts of which are featured in this week’s On Being episode. Through The Color Purple and poet Danez Smith, I learned about embracing the messiness of life, about existing in that place between joy and pain; through the sex comedy Blockers and Emily VanDerWerff, Vox’s critic at large, I learned to view gender and sexuality in entirely new ways; and through my conversation about Real Women Have Curves with writer and body image activist Virgie Tovar, I revisited and unearthed parts of my Latina and immigrant identities that I had long thought buried and sorted (you can hear our full conversation on the TMCM podcast this week).

When film critic Roger Ebert - one of my prophets - was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, he shared some words about his work that left a permanent mark on the way that I view movies and in turn, life. He said, “Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else's life for a while. I can walk in somebody else's shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief. The great movies enlarge us, they civilize us, they make us more decent people.”

I wish all of you a future with great movies to accompany you, to help you transform, to be a friend.


Lily Percy
Executive Producer and host of This Movie Changed Me




This Week at The On Being Project

Our Latest Episode

On Being Logo

On Being with Krista Tippett

Danez Smith, Tony Banout, Shea Serrano, Emily VanDerWerff, Virgie Tovar
"The Question “Who Am I,” and Movies We Love"

They’ve helped us make it through the year; they also have a way of showing us who we are.

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Our Website


On Being Logo

This Movie Changed Me

Virgie Tovar
Real Women Have Curves

On walking between two worlds — and finding a home in yourself.

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Our Website



Watch | Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Julian Dennison’s performance as a young Māori boy blundering through the New Zealand bush is pitch perfect. Equal parts funny, heartbreaking, and sweet, it had me laughing out loud the whole way through. And yes, it is on Netflix! — Gautam Srikishan, Producer

Watch | Sliding Doors 
As This Movie Changed Me rides into the sunset this spring, those of us who make the podcast were asked what movie we would select if we were to be in the guest chair. My pick is a throwback to 1998’s Sliding Doors, which follows our heroine, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, down two parallel storylines that divide on the trivial action of catching or missing a train. It’s a great thought experiment and also thoroughly entertaining. At a point in my life when I was presented with many paths from which to choose, this movie helped me consider both the complexity and simplicity of asking “what if?” — Chris Heagle, Producer/Technical Director


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