It's a Beautiful Day:
A Whole Life in Five Movies

Featuring bestselling author Kathleen Norris and beloved storyteller Gareth Higgins

Beloved writers and passionate cinema fans Kathleen Norris and Gareth Higgins invite you to reflect together on the journey of a whole human life, from birth to death, through the dreamworld of the movies.


In five sessions we'll watch five films (more if you like), and learn to see ourselves; stretch our horizons into the future, and reimagine the past. Join us for a beautiful day, stepping into a beautiful life.

    It has been said that we dream our lives, and if we don't awaken to this, they can be over before we know it. At the end of the Coen Brothers’ darkly comic masterpiece Fargo, the heroine Marge asks the villain why he would have done such terrible things, and "all for a little bit of money". "Like any mystic, this down-to-earth policewoman looks out a snowy landscape that most people would find unappealing, and sees a world of wonder. "Here you are,” she says, "It's a beautiful day."

    • Watch a movie each week (more if you like)

      Each week we'll have a movie for you to watch, and if you want to dive deeper, we'll offer up suggestions for further viewing. We will provide links to streaming options, where the films will be available for a nominal charge of between $2.99-$5.99. When a film is available to stream legally at no charge we will note that also. 

    • Continue the conversation with Porch Circles

      Want to continue the conversation beyond our weekly calls? You'll have the opportunity to form a small group with other course members to dig deeper, create lasting relationships, and find support in community. 


    Course Syllabus

    Getting Started: Birth & Childhood
    We often know things as children that we forget as adults; we touch wisdom and hope that seem to fade away. In this session we'll revisit childhood through a cinematic vision of how the burdens we knew when we were children can transform in later life into fuel for being more fully ourselves.
    Film for Session One*: What Maisie Knew (Scott McGehee and David Siegel)

    For optional further viewing: Boy (Taiki Waititi)Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair)

    Click the titles above for streaming options.


    Doing Something Meaningful: Youth
    The vision and energy of youth generates both change and growing pains. The pain inside sometimes meets the needs of the world, and an alchemy ensues. When we’re entering adulthood, if we’re lucky enough to find the right mentors, we may discover what we’re here for. It can be useful to look back on this time to consider what we’ve left behind, needs to be renewed, or can help us live better today.

    Film for Session Two*:  Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)

    For optional further viewing: The Dam-Keeper (Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi), Pride (Matthew Warchus), and The Secret Life of Words (Isabel Coixet) - not available to stream in the US, but well worth watching, and available on DVD, used, from $1 and up at this link.

    Click the titles above for streaming options.


    Settling in to Who We Really Are: Midlife
    In the comedy How Do You Know, a psychiatrist played by Tony Shalhoub tells a driven former Olympic softball team captain played by Reese Witherspoon that happiness is about discovering what we want, and learning how to ask for it. This question often comes most to the fore during the period when we’re no longer youthful, but not yet old. Who are we, really? What are we here for? What is our quest in life? Knowing the answer to that question is almost the same thing as finding the grail itself.

    Film for Session Three**:  Together (Lukas Moodysson) 

    For optional further viewing:  The Fisher King (Terry Gilliam), Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel), 

    Old Joy (Kelly Reichert)

    **We will discuss both  Together and The Fisher King, but if you only have time to watch one, we recommend Together.

    Click the titles above for streaming options.


    Learning to Give it Away: Elderhood
    And then there is the question of what we will pass on to the next generation. If storing up only for ourselves does not lead to the good life, what does? What will we give away? Let’s take a good look at what it means to become, even as twilight begins, more fully ourselves than we might previously have imagined.

    Film for Session Four*: Faces Places (Agnès Varda & J.R.)

    For optional further viewing: Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade), Whale Rider (Niki Caro)

    Click the titles above for streaming options.


    What Was It All About?: Death
    All the main religious traditions believe in some kind of afterlife, but what we’re concerned with here is how taking death seriously can help us live better here and now. Some have called this “the life-giving properties of death awareness”, and how sweet today becomes when we live like it’s all we have. Who knows whether or not there is something beyond death? We do know that there is a today - and there are lots of movies that can help us live more fully into the love and light of that reality.

    Film for Session Five*: After Life (Hirokazu Kore-eda) [Only available on YouTube].

    For optional further viewing:  Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa), Departures (Yojiro Takita), or The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)

    Click the titles above for streaming options.


    *Participants are expected to watch one film each week, available on various streaming services. We will provide links to streaming options, where the films will be available for a nominal charge of between $2.99-$5.99. When a film is available to stream legally at no charge we will note that also. We will offer two or three other recommendations for further watching if you have the time.  Click on the film titles for streaming options in the US. If you're outside the US, the quickest way to find where the film is streaming in your country is to search the film title along with the word "streaming". We cannot guarantee that all films will be available in all countries, but if a film is not available to stream where you live, we recommend searching for a DVD or Blu-ray copy; used copies are often available for around the same price as streaming. Contact us if you have any problems.