The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

We’re more divided than ever. Good thing the year-end movies are all about empathy.

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton star in “Loving.” (Ben Rothstein/Focus Features)

There’s one thing that Republicans and Democrats can probably agree on: That was rough. The campaign got ugly and cruel, and the vote tallies revealed a nation that’s just about as divided as it can possibly be. Now that it’s all over, both winner and loser, not to mention the president and other politicians, are calling for unity. We are one people, they tell us. The fight is over.

It feels like whiplash, right? After Americans have been provoked into a tizzy, with each side screaming at the other (or, more likely, venting to their like-minded friends on social media), we’re supposed to forget everything and embrace?

It’s hard to know where to begin as we search for the humanity that the country collectively misplaced over the past year or so. But you could do worse than to start with the fall movie season, which offers the opposite of everything we’ve just experienced: gentle beauty, subtle messages of hope, and pleas for compassion, not to mention reminders that we’re all connected. Here are just a few of the movies that can deliver a little election season antidote — at least for a couple hours.

“Loving” (Opens Nov. 11)

Jeff Nichols’s beautifully understated drama tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who were arrested in Virginia in 1958 for the crime of cohabitation. They were sentenced to jail time, but they escaped that fate by agreeing to move away from Virginia for 25 years. But living in Washington, D.C., didn’t suit them — they missed the country and their families. So, with the help of the ACLU, they took on the system and won. Love prevailed, and miscegenation laws were deemed unconstitutional.

“Moonlight” (In theaters now)

Barry Jenkins’s probable best picture contender is remarkable both for its specificity and its inclusiveness. The main character is one that Hollywood doesn’t tend to put on the screen: Chiron is a poor black boy growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood, and he’s struggling to understand his sexuality. But the gorgeously shot, deeply emotional movie also examines universally resonant themes, such as the alienation a kid can feel when he doesn’t fit in and what love can do to help him overcome years of bullying and abuse.

How ‘Moonlight’ became one of the year’s best movies

“Arrival” (Opens Nov. 11)

The science fiction movie is ostensibly about what happens when aliens pay us a visit. A linguist (played by Amy Adams) is tasked with trying to communicate with the newcomers and understand what they want. This isn’t exactly “Independence Day,” considering it’s the work of Denis Villeneuve, the thoughtful filmmaker behind well-crafted dramas like “Sicario” and “Prisoners.” It wouldn’t be fair to reveal much more, but suffice it to say that it could help you get over your post-election blues with its reminder that good things happen when people band together.

“A Monster Calls” (Opens Dec. 23)

Like “Moonlight,” this drama follows a quiet, bullied kid who’s dealing with a lot at home — in this case, his mother is dying. But a giant treelike creature helps him cope in the nightly visits where the great beast tells the little boy stories. Those fables have some interesting messages about how pointless preconceived notions can be and why people don’t like what they don’t understand. Sound familiar? It’s also about how grief can be constructive, so if you were With Her, this tear-jerker will give you the perfect excuse to publicly weep.

“La La Land” (Opens Dec. 16)

When all else fails, there’s nothing like a musical love story to put a smile on your face. Damien Chazelle’s nostalgic song-and-dance-filled dramedy stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, two charmers practically guaranteed to cheer you up.

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