Where Ideas Grow

A blog for students of creative writing at York St John University

Movies to Inspire Your ‘Beyond the Walls’ Submissions

The theme for this years Beyond the Walls anthology is ageing. You can interpret this theme in whatever way you’d like and we look forward to reading everything you come up with!

To get those gears in your brain turning, here’s a wide range of movies you can watch, not as a way to procrastinate, but to research themes and ideas for your own story submissions… and maybe to procrastinate a little.

Generational gaps

Anybody with much younger or much older siblings will know that the generational gap is a very real thing – take it from someone whose little sister doesn’t know what One Direction is.

This theme of generational gaps between characters is common in media with two prominent examples being: Up, the 2009 animated Pixar movie, and Only Murders in the Building, the first season of which was released in 2021.

Up tells the story of grumpy widower, Carl Fredrickson, and energetic young wilderness explorer, Russell, as they find themselves stranded in Paradise Falls. Only Murders in the Building also follows the dynamics between two older men, Charles and Oliver, as they try to solve a murder in their apartment building with local millennial Mabel. This series in particular highlights generational differences as Oliver tries to ‘be down with the kids’ whereas Charles lives in a permanent state of obliviousness and confusion.

Maybe a fun spin on this common theme could be pairing an older female figure in your story with someone of a younger generation. Another possibility could be exploring generational gaps in a family and the complications that arise with that.


The pre-teen years are hell as acne shows up alongside unexplained aggression to signal the fact that we are crossing that threshold into adolescence. This coming of age experience is something everybody goes through, it’s also a period of time frequently explored in film.

A recent example of puberty and the prepubescent stage of a person’s life being represented is with Disney’s acclaimed 2022 film, Turning Red. On the surface this is a story of a girl with the out of control power to turn into a red panda, but looking deeper than that, the story is clearly a metaphor for puberty and the changes that arise. Even more themes of ageing can be found throughout this movie, one of them being the aforementioned theme of generational gaps represented through the relationship of Meiling and her mother. Another theme is nostalgia as this is set in the very early 2000s, a period of time where any good boyband worth their hoards of fans sang, danced, and dressed in perfect synchrony.

Not all movies about puberty are heartwarming coming of age stories, however, as Brightburn, released in 2019, is a movie that follows a young boy whose Superman-like powers begin to manifest. Unlike Clark Kent, Brandon Breyer did not crashland on Earth as a baby and grow up to save humanity, instead, at the tender age of twelve he begins using his powers to kill people in his town, reminiscent of the mean streak found in even the shyest of pre-teens.

Whether you want to explore the wholesome or the ‘holy crap’ elements of puberty and the coming of age experience, this would definitely be a good theme to get your creative teeth into.

Not ageing at all

If you had the choice to stop ageing, would you take it? I’m sure the cosmetic industry is shaking in their boots at the very thought of this being a possibility. For the following two movie characters, this isn’t a hypothetical question but their reality.

Despite being born at the turn of the twentieth-century Adeline, the main character in the 2015 film The Age of Adeline, is still wrinkle-free by the twenty-first century after an accident stops her ageing process. The movie focuses on the complications that arise from such a situation that many would sell their soul for as Adeline has to watch the people closest to her ageing without her, including her own daughter who is eventually mistaken for her grandmother.

Another example of a character that doesn’t age is Steve Rogers aka Captain America who, in his first film Captain America: The First Avenger, goes for a dip in freezing cold water during World War II and wakes up over half a century later. While fighting alongside the Avengers, Steve is also trying to catch up on important cultural and historical things he’s missed over the decades such as The Beatles and the moon landing, among others.

If you’re struggling with a story idea, maybe consider this theme of not ageing and approach it from an angle of the emotions this could stir up, the fear and frustration or maybe even the power a person could accumulate throughout the decades.

While these are just a couple of ways you could approach your Beyond the Walls 2023 submission, don’t be scared to experiment and put your touch on the ageing theme.

Remember that submissions are OPEN to all third year and postgraduate students and close 13 March 2023 at midday. Submit through btwallseditorial@gmail.com and make sure to check out our Instagram and Twitter page @beyondysj for updates!

Ellimai Freeman

Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash

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