Ah, it’s that time of the year again…
Love is in the air and your strolls through department stores are lined with heart-shaped chocolate boxes, gift bags, and signs proclaiming that Valentine’s Day is nigh. As you wander through the pink and red hallways of marketing limbo, you will probably find yourself wondering if you will have to watch The Notebook again. In a weak moment, you might even contemplate if you should have gotten tickets for the premiere of Fifty Shades Darker after all. But as nice as the occasional tear-jerker or predictable rom-com may be, sometimes more realistic depictions of love and relationships are what we need to keep us sane around the day that celebrates romance (and capitalism).
But do not despair – we’re here to help in these kitschy times! The following films will make your heart clench and your eyes water with genuine emotion. They may not always end happily, but then again that’s how life and love work. So grab your partner or your favourite plushy/pillow and choose one of our top romantic film picks below:
Blue Is the Warmest Colour
In 2013, writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche broke records and won three Palmes d’Or at Cannes even though his film was shrouded in controversy because of its uninhibited depictions of sexuality and taxing filming conditions. Based on the French graphic novel of the same name, this film is a tender, yet raw depiction of first love and desire. However, it also poses questions of compatibility and partnership which arise once the initial giddy honeymoon phase is over and reality creeps back into the picture. With stellar performances by the lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, this coming-of-age romance drama accurately portrays the whirlwind of emotions that can be caused by a new infatuation
In the Mood For Love
In the Mood for Love marks the middle of Wong Kar-wai’s informal trilogy of love stories which started with Days of being Wild and ended with 2046. All of these films are part of an overarching theme that portrays the human desire for togetherness, belonging, and partnership, and yet these stories do not shy away from showing the bitter sweetness of missed chances and the scars left by romances which were not meant to be. Wong Kar-wai created a melancholy masterpiece, using high aesthetics and time skips to tell the tale of two lonely people who find themselves betrayed by their spouses and seek solace in each other’s presence and through their shared passion for writing.
Lost in Translation
Sophia Coppola’s romantic comedy-drama from 2003 is not your usual love story. It is a quiet exploration of the internal working of two characters, Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who both find themselves in Tokyo where not only the meaning of their words is lost in translation. While divided by several decades, both characters are adrift in a world that does not understand them, just as they seem to become more distant from the path they had envisioned for themselves. The film is dominated by artfully orchestrated shared silences between Bob and Charlotte, lulling the audience into a sense of calm and longing for the comfort these two drifters manage to find in each other amidst the neon landscape of Tokyo.
On a lighter note, this Woody Allen 1977 romantic-comedy classic is as introspective as it is hilarious. Starring Allen himself as the neurotic city dweller Alvy Singer and Diane Keaton as his (ex)lover in a role that he wrote for her specifically, this film does not follow a particular chronology as it retells the ups and downs of their relationship. Practically autobiographical, considering Allen’s former romance with Keaton, the script for Annie Hall is regarded as one of the funniest screenplays of the 20th century. The story of Annie and Alvy includes frank discussions of sex and relationships but manages to keep a humorous tone that mixes well with the wistfulness of Woody Allen’s outlook on love and life.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Crossing genres between romantic comedy, drama, and science-fiction, this Michel Gondry film is not necessarily the most realistic love story out there. But just like Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet), most of us have been in a situation where it would have been easier and less painful to just delete an ex from our memories and thus cut them out of our lives without a trace. Employing non-linear narrative elements and dream/memory sequences which are intercut with scenes that take place in the real world, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a dreamy trip which turns a high-tech breakup into a heartening lesson about second chances.
Last but not least, this list would not be complete without Spike Jonze’s futuristic interpretation of our society’s dependency on online-dating, social media, and technological gadgets and the discussion how they continue to gain influence over our interpersonal relationships. While it is easy to understand how Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an OS that is voiced by Scarlett Johansson, this infatuation is mainly driven by his oppressive isolation which is effectively demonstrated by the way he is framed and colour-coded. Her uses subtle techniques to convey its message on a visual and emotional level and intelligently illustrates the constellations between humans, their OS’s, and each other. Ultimately, the moral of the story is that we are social creatures after all and potential (human) partners might be closer than we think and more suited to us than the most seductively voiced operating system.
And in the meantime, you don’t have to spend your time alone. Remember, pizza will always be there for you.