In real life, falling in love is everything a good film should be—it's exciting, emotional, fun, unexpected. Yet so often when filmmakers try and capture love on screen the result is pretty awful. The romance genre is notorious for pumping out movies so full of clichés that you'd be forgiven for thinking everyone is just a make out session in the rain away from finding their soul mate. If you want to snuggle up with your significant other tonight and watch a movie—or just distract yourself from the crushing loneliness of being single on Valentine's Day—here are a few times love on screen wasn't a let down:
This film stars Ryan Gosling and has the word Valentine in the title, but you couldn't get any further from The Notebook if you tried. Gosling plays alongside Michelle Williams in this autopsy of a failing marriage, cutting back and forth between its blissful early stages and the bitter ordeal that it eventually becomes. Blue Valentine ends with a credits sequence that in any other context would be considered quietly uplifting. Given everything that precedes it though, you'll be left reaching for the nearest box of tissues instead.
Husbands and Wives
In hindsight, it's actually a miracle this movie got made at all. Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were going through their very public falling out by the time Husbands and Wives came out in 1992, so one can only imagine what things would have been like on set between the two of them. In spite of this, both give the performances of their career, as a couple whose own marriage is rocked by the divorce of their close friends (played by no less than Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis).
Even if you're not entirely aware of the full backstory, this is Woody at his most emotionally honest and devastating, and it easily stands to date as one of his best dramatic works.
Director Andrew Haigh may be riding high this awards season with his latest feature 45 Years, but it all started back with this subdued effort from 2011. Weekend is a familiar tale in many ways: two men connect over the course of a few days, only to go their separate ways as the demands and commitments of everyday life begin to reassert themselves. Low-key, muted and anchored by its two superb leads (Tom Cullen and Chris New), almost anyone can get something out of the film's portrayal of a promising connection thwarted by external circumstances, but which nevertheless still leaves both characters changed by the experience.
The Infinite Man
This small Australian film quietly came and went from cinemas in 2014, as is unfortunately so often the case. But The Infinite Man manages to pull off quite a bit in spite of the limited resources at hand. Hugh Sullivan's sci-fi romance centres around a neurotic scientist attempting to recreate a weekend with his girlfriend, only to resort to time travel when things don't quite go to plan. Naturally, things begin to spiral out quite quickly as any number of alternate timelines begin to intersect with each other. Alex Dimitriades has way too much fun playing the scumbag ex-boyfriend who sets everything in motion, and you'll undoubtedly have some minor revelations about appreciating the moment and accepting change.
3D art house sex epic may seem a contradiction in terms, but then again French enfant terrible Gaspar Noé has never been one to pay heed to conventional wisdom. This is after all the most recent film from the man who brought us Irreversible and Enter The Void. Upon it's release, much was made of the film's real sex scenes by its lead actors, shot in a format typically reserved for big budget spectacles. The focus on that facet though doesn't do justice to what is essentially a love story, which is frank about the physical component of the evolving relationships between the three main characters. Despite seeking to shock, Noé has somehow managed to pull off the unlikely feat of making the most sentimental film of his career so far.
Bear with me on this one. Helmed by Lars Von Trier, that other provocateur of international art house cinema, Antichrist is probably most notorious for its scenes of self harm and genital mutilation, not to mention that brief cameo by a talking fox. But put that to one side and you actually have a pretty haunting portrait of a couple attempting to come to terms with the death of their infant son, only for things to go in an increasingly surreal direction around them. The fact that it is probably the most divisive films from one of cinema's most divisive figures is reason alone to check it out. And look, it's either this or Tinder, and at least with one of those options you can come out the other side saying you have a profound cultural experience.
Happy Valentine's Day.
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