My favorite and most memorable films always end up having a doomed romance. I realized this after finishing yet another melancholic romance movie that left me teary eyed and pondering over the ending. Maybe I’m only actually interested in the chase or the drama that comes with having a feeling the couple isn’t supposed to be together. Maybe it’s the way some films explore the reality of most relationships by take the non-traditional route of not having the couple end up together. Or maybe it’s the way that the ending of these films produces the mixed feeling of rooting for the couple but also understanding why their “happy ending” doesn’t necessarily include them being together. It’s most likely a mix of all of these reasons, but the fact still remains the same: I love doomed romances.
There are countless films, in all types of cinema, that contain the narrative of a love story with a bleak end. The first story that got me hooked, from the moment I had to read it in high school, is The Great Gatsby. I always go back to this novel (and the adapted movies) because The Great Gatsby is one of the OG doomed romances. It was clear from the beginning that Daisy and Gatsby could never be together in the long run. As the story progresses, this fact gets even clearer as we find out more about Daisy, each character’s circumstances, and by realizing that the society they lived in would have made it almost impossible for them to actually bring their relationship into long-term fruition. Yet readers/ viewers still seem to root for Daisy and Gatsby for a majority of the plot.
Call Me by Your Name (CMBYN) is another one of my favorite films featuring a doomed romance. In fact, the whole plot is based off the fact that society in the 80s generally looked down upon gay men, let alone those with significant age differences, in romantic relationships. CMBYN takes place at the height of the HIV/AIDS scare and increasing homophobia, yet it never mentions either of those. The audience just assumes that this is a forbidden romance due to prior knowledge of the time’s context. The fact that Oliver is only in Italy for the summer also adds to the doomed aspect, already establishing that he and Elio will eventually have to say goodbye.
Finally, the film that led me to realize this pattern I’ve been following is In the Mood for Love, a cinematographic masterpiece loved and learned by film classes everywhere. It’s a film from Hong Kong about two married neighbors who both find out that their spouses are cheating on them and eventually fall in love. I watched CMBYN first, so a lot of In the Mood for Love reminded me of the same feelings I had while watching CMBYN. Even though I knew their circumstances were incredibly unfortunate, I still wanted them to overcome these obstacles. Each ending left me with that same melancholy after the films established the couples’ separation. What I loved about both the films is that it’s as if they were told from the perspective of one person from each couple that’s still longing for this connection, and they are sharing their story well into the future. This makes the audience question the credibility of what they’ve seen, which In the Mood for Love emphasizes through its form and technique.
I love all of these films so much because it’s important to deviate away from the norms of romance every once in a while. As we see in real life, not every couple ends up together for very complex and valid reasons that can be really interesting to explore. While I still love a feel-good romantic comedy, doomed romances will always have a special place in my heart because they bring me back to reality.