Five Movies That Show the Gap Between the Rural and Urban World

In recent years, a kind of confrontation has been taking place between the interests of people in the rural and urban worlds. These movies expose this difference.
Five Movies That Show the Gap Between the Rural and Urban World
Cristina Roda Rivera

Written and verified by the psychologist Cristina Roda Rivera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Certain movies demonstrate the gap between the rural and urban world. This is a really interesting topic in psychology and sociology today. Indeed, the way we behave is directly related to where we live. As an example, the film, Nomadland, brings to the fore the different ways of life that exist in a country like the United States.

The gap between the rural and urban world has existed for a few decades. Increasingly distant behaviors are accentuated in the two rather different ways of life. They range from how people vote to the food they eat, the work they do, how they conceive of the natural world, etc.

The rural and urban worlds have always coexisted. In fact, they’ve always needed each other and have managed to achieve a social balance. However, this has changed lately and they seem to be at odds, not only ideologically, but emotionally.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at five movies that show the gap between the rural and urban world. They’ll help you be aware that, despite everything, the great human questions are universal, whether we’re born in cities or the countryside.

1. Hillbilly Elegy (2020)

This movie deals with the gap between the rural and urban worlds in the United States. It’s the adaptation of J.D. Vance’s controversial memoir, Hillbilly Elegy.

It didn’t receive too many good reviews. However, many claim it’s an extremely accurate explanation of what’s happening and how people now vote in the United States.

The movie tells the story of a Yale law student who’s drawn to his Appalachian hometown. He reflects on his family’s history and how it’s influenced his independent life in another city. As a matter of fact, this type of country family is found in every town and state in the United States, even if they’re not visible.

The story of James David Vance is that of a man who wants to find himself in his past, and better understand who he is and where he comes from. Ron Howard’s, Hillbily Elegy features the likes of Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Vasso, and Freida Pinto.

2. Winter’s Bone (2010)

This movie is based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell and was adapted by the director, Debra Granik. It establishes a formidable tension between mystery and reality. Indeed, the grim movie is as tough, unwavering, and riveting as the characters who barely make a living amid its cold gray hills.

Jennifer Lawrence is Ree, a 17-year-old girl who has to take care of her two younger brothers. Her mother is ill and her father is out on bail and has disappeared. If the family doesn’t sort things out, their house will be taken away. 

Later in the movie, it’s suspected that the local crime boss may have killed her father over some old grudges. Unbreakable in the face of all the poverty and violence that surrounds her, resilient and resourceful, she embarks on a dangerous quest to find him and fix the debt. Indeed, the fate of her entire family is left in her hands.

3. The Bélier family (2014)

This French dramatic comedy works on many levels: as a rustic family tale, a movie about deafness and singing, and a study of small-town politics.

Louane Emera plays Paula, the daughter of sex-crazed farmers, Rodolphe and Gigli (François Damiens, Karin Viard) who possess a somewhat grotesque sense of humor.

Her parents and little brother are deaf and Paula is their interpreter, especially when they sell their cheeses from their farm in the markets. Rodolphe decides to run for mayor, and Paula has the opportunity to participate in a singing contest in Paris that could change her life.

However, her parents can’t bear the thought of her having a beautiful voice, especially if it means she’ll leave them. Consequently, Paula has to face the decision, not only whether to leave her family but if she should change her farming routine in the Loire region for cosmopolitan and modern Paris.

4. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

The Spirit of the Beehive by Víctor Erice tells the story of two sisters. They’re the imaginative and impressionable eight-year-old Ana (Ana Torrent) and the more realistic and mischievous Isabel (Isabel Telleria), ten years old.

It’s 1940, just after the Spanish Civil War and the fascist victory of General Franco. The sisters live in a small, almost deserted Castilian town, in a mansion that was saved from destruction in the war.

They live with their father, Fernando (Fernando Fernán Gómez), a beekeeper who writes poems about bees at night. Their lonely and helpless mother, Teresa (Teresa Gimpera), writes mysterious letters to a lover who now lives abroad. Most of the time the girls are left alone, except on one occasion when their father takes them to search for mushrooms.

One day, a traveling film exhibitor displays the 1931 Spanish dubbed version of James Whale’s Frankenstein movie at the town hall, which the sisters attend. Ana is fascinated by the monster, but doesn’t understand why it killed the girl or why the villagers killed the monster.

The Spirit of the Beehive has influenced the work of the Spaniard, Carlos Saura, and the Mexican Guillermo Del Toro. His film, Pan’s Labyrinth premiered at Cannes in 2006, clearly influenced by the work of Erice.

5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Grapes of Wrath is the John Ford-directed adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel. It’s a 1940 film set during the Great Depression.

The Joad clan is seeking a better life in California. After the bank seizes their drought-stricken farm, the family, led by their son Tom (Henry Fonda) loads up a truck and they all head west.

Along the way, beset by hardship, they meet dozens of other families making the same journey and clinging to the same dream. They’re all dispossessed and miserably needy people. Once in California, the Joads soon realize that the promised land isn’t exactly what they expected.

This film remains a critically important chronicle of a difficult time in American history and raises still relevant questions about poverty, farm work, and the huge gaps between rich and poor.

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