In 2001, Mandy Moore released a song called “Cry,” in which she sings: “All your feelings so deep inside (deep inside) / Was there that I realized / that forever was in your eyes / The moment I saw you cry.”
A fine pop tune, though it took me almost 15 years to truly, truly understand what Mandy Moore was plaintively singing to us. She was asking us to cry, yes, but not for her — for ourselves. She’s offering a catharsis, encouraging us to dig deep inside and release our emotions. To wear wet little badges of vulnerability with pride.
Moore’s new project, This Is Us, a saccharine family drama on NBC, is yet another example of Moore’s ability to deliver a gut punch and then collect our tears in a vat marked “Tears.” But Moore has excelled at tugging heartstrings her whole career. When her chin wobbles, our chin wobbles. When her eyes fill with tears, ours do too. A Mandy Moore song isn’t just a song. A Mandy Moore movie isn’t just a movie. It’s a chance to connect to her in an intimate, tear-filled, ecstatic experience.
Say you have a friend who’s having a hard time. She’s very sad, and she comes to you for comfort. You could say “go to therapy,” or “have some ice cream,” or even “tell me about your problems.” But the most effective form of comfort would be to direct your friend to the Mandy Moore catharsis bundle, and encourage her to interact with the following:
“I Wanna Be With You”: Moore’s breathy vocals on this song are as gentle and fragile as young love itself. It’s a warm-up entry; you’ll feel “wistfully nostalgic” unless you’re listening to it on a Sunday, in which case you’ll fast-track to “wondering where everything in your last relationship went wrong.”
Chasing Liberty: Frankly, I cannot tell you the actual plot of this movie. Matthew Goode was involved? The Berlin Love Parade seemed like the most amazing, freeing experience you could ever have in your life? Who knows, but watching Mandy Moore realize that her hot love interest was actually a Secret Service agent whom her father had hired to protect her and had been deceiving her this whole time? Well, I’m not sure there are enough tissues in this world.
Andy Roddick’s 2003 U.S. Open Win: Who was there, in multiple close-ups, cheering her boyfriend on as he won literally the only Grand Slam of his 13-year career? That’s right, it was Mandy.
The Princess Diaries: Oh, sorry, are you too cool to tear up when Anne Hathaway finally learns how to be herself and a princess at the same time? Mandy Moore is just an accessory to tears here, but without her Mean Girl act, Anne Hathaway wouldn’t have had a high school struggle to overcome. Thank you, Mandy.
How to Deal: Very few have seen this 2003 movie, in which Mandy Moore plays a good teenager who doesn’t believe in love until she falls in love with a troubled but cute teenage boy. It’s basically the frothy version of The Spectacular Now, except with teen pregnancy, Allison Janney, a young person dying from a heart defect, and the rush of first love. If all that doesn’t get you, Moore’s weird pageboy might just be the tipping point.
A Walk to Remember: Remember this movie? Go on. Feel it. Feel what happens when you open yourself up to love. Mandy Moore dies of cancer as a teen. Cry away. Go on, we’ll look away.
“Only Hope”: This is the song that Mandy Moore’s A Walk to Remember character sings to Shane West before dying. It is its own entry because it transcends the film and also because she sang it like an angel.
This Is Us: On the show, Mandy Moore plays the mother of triplets — both in flashbacks and in present day, when she dons prosthetic makeup to convince us that an actress who is 32 could be the mother to 36-year-old adult children. Anyway, Moore’s adult children are having their lives changed in the most dramatic intersecting story lines — and the narrative requires her to really tug at the heartstrings. She loses a child; she gives her alcoholic husband a “get it together” speech that will make you sob into your fist; and she wears old lady Mandy Moore makeup — and if you think young Mandy Moore can make you cry, you just need to prepare yourself for this.
This Is Us is Mandy Moore’s crowning achievement in a life dedicated to pretty cries, emoting to the perfect pop ballad to make us cry along with her.