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If you’re anything like me, then you are looking forward to Labor Day weekend for one big reason. No, not the extra day off work, potential cookouts, or phasing the white out of your wardrobe. The big draw of Labor Day weekend for me is having some time to catch up on my monumental movie backlog.

After last year essentially putting the entire film industry on hold, the movie world has come back with a vengeance, and with another third of 2021 left, this is sure to be a year for the history books. So if you’re planning on using the long weekend to watch some movies, here are some of my favorites from this year, all of which you can watch for free with your library card. 

Promising Young Woman 

Carrie Mulligan in nurse costume from Promising Young Woman
From "The Making of Promising Young Woman," by Bryn Sanders in Hollywood Reporter

This was by far my most anticipated film of the year, and it did not disappoint: Cassie, played by the incredible Carey Mulligan, is a med school dropout coping with the death of her childhood best friend, who died under mysterious circumstances following a personal trauma. Despite moving back in with her parents and working an aimless day job as a barista, Cassie spends her nights seeking revenge on the people who allowed her friend to be victimized. There are a ton of movies about vigilante justice, many of which are super satisfying, but Promising Young Woman isn’t that, exactly. It’s a complex, gorgeous film with a lot to say if you’re up to the challenge. This movie comes with a bucket of content warnings, so if you are interested, please proceed with caution, but I promise it is more than worth it. You can check out Promising Young Woman on DVD from HCPL. 

Shiva Baby 

Danielle from Shiva Baby covered in cream cheese
Image from Kanopy

The success of Adam Sandler’s surprising return to art house cinema in 2019’s Uncut Gems has proven one thing to be true: movie watchers like to be stressed out. It is this desire that has brought so many people to compare Uncut Gems to my next recommendation, Emma Seligman’s directorial debut Shiva Baby. The film follows Danielle, a liberal arts student involved in a secret relationship with an older man, who unceremoniously runs into him—and a bunch of other people—at a shiva, or Jewish funeral. Like Uncut Gems, Shiva Baby is a parade of worst-case scenarios stacked on top of each other. She runs into her boyfriend’s wife, her ex, and several family members, who all seem intent on destroying the house of card of lies she’s constructed for herself. At a tight 78 minutes, Shiva Baby is practically a short film, which is good, because I think if the anxiety were allowed to go on any longer it could be considered a health hazard. You can watch Shiva Baby on Kanopy. 

In the Earth 

A woman with white paper over her eyes
Image from Kanopy

Following the success of rural creep-shows like The Witch and Midsommar, the previously niche subgenre of folk horror is seeing an unprecedented revival, and one of the old masters has returned to form. Ben Wheatly directed the folk horror cult classics (pardon my pun) Kill List and A Field in England, and has now graced us with another in this year’s In the Earth. At the risk of hitting a bit too close to home, In the Earth follows a group of scientists trying to find a way to save humanity from a virus that has driven them nearly to extinction. They are sent to study a forest with an unusual fungus species that also happens to be home to a local legend about a mysterious forest deity. Like other folk horror films, In the Earth is interested in the tension between the ancient and the modern, but the pandemic setting and scientific aesthetics make it feel like an even more contemporary update. You can watch In the Earth on Kanopy. 

These are just a few of the great movies that have come out this year, and there are plenty more in our collection and on Kanopy. What are you planning to watch over the long weekend? Let us know in the comments! 

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