Love. Romance. Two words that can stand on their own without the need to explain their significance. When we talk about them or hear them from someone else, there’s usually an invocation of images, feelings, or even scents that either describe what we’re looking for in another person or portray what we already had with someone that was once special to us. It seems life itself gravitates around finding “the one,” our “soulmate,” “the love of our lives,” and “that special someone made just for us.” Life, for the most part, consists of searching for love and romance. It gives our lives meaning.
Our society indubitably gives them this meaning of love. Love and romance are the ultimate goals in life instead of being perceived as things that are part of that end goal. It shouldn’t be everything we strive to gain. There are movies, songs, books, and paintings dedicated to them. That’s how much of an influence they have in our lives. I’m aware that the initial feeling is pure bliss and that we are conditioned to think that another person can be the sole source of our happiness. Still, we should also focus on the imperfection that exists in love and romance. Imperfection is not always associated with something negative. In this case, it makes love and romance even more beautiful. Our flaws are beautiful.
In this sense, love should be described as a partnership between two people that support and help each other grow, while they still maintain their individuality. Romance, on the other hand, should be a quality that’s necessary to maintain the passion and love alive. Some love stories last, while others become either beautiful memories or horrific experiences. Sadly, most love stories seem to end with heartbreak. There’s no escaping it. It’s just a part of life.
There are lots of hopeless romantics out there. As you probably know by now, I’m not one of them. I consider myself a pessimist when it comes to love. Yes, it has a lot to do with getting my heart completely broken, but it’s something that’s been with me even before the heartbreak. Even as a hopeless pessimist when it comes to love, I’ve seen my fair share of romance movies. I squeal, swoon, laugh, cry, and fall in love with the male protagonist. I can’t help myself. There’s just something special about love, even for a pessimist like me.
I’ve created a list of my favorite romance movies for you to watch and go through the motions. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hopeless romantic or a pessimist! Even though the majority tend to end on a depressive or pessimistic note, they’re more than just love stories because they portray real life as it is.
- La La Land
La La Land is a 2016 musical/romance movie about Sebastian and Mia, two people that become attracted to each other by their mutual aspiration to do what they love. While Sebastian desires to open his own club to play the music he loves (jazz), Mia is an aspiring actress. As they both struggle to acquire their dreams, they seem to fall even more in love. In this movie, love and professional aspirations seem to be both the unifying and separating forces. The question that the narrative incites on its spectator is: are love and professional dreams possible together? Or do you need to pick one or the other in order to find true happiness?
It might appear like the movie gives a direct answer in the end, but I don’t believe that’s the case. I’m not about to spoil the film for any of you, but I will say this: the movie, while it has a very direct ending, has also an element of openness in that same ending. It provides the spectator the possibility of what could’ve been, while staying firm to what already is of both Sebastian and Mia’s lives. The previously mentioned questions linger, and it’s up to the spectators to decide how the answer will affect their personal lives.
This is a beautiful movie in every sense of the word. I’ve never cried so much during a film. I suggest you keep a box of tissues near you because I guarantee that you’ll cry. This is my all-time favorite romance movie, but I will never see it again. The irony!
- Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine is a 2010 romance/drama movie about Dean and Cynthia, a married couple who struggles to keep their marriage together. The film goes back and forth between the past and the present. In the past, the spectator gets to witness the couple’s aspirations and the story of how they fall in love. In the present, the spectator is shown their fragile marriage and how that once-passionate love has faded. Dean, initially presented as a hopeless romantic with a purpose, settles into his life as a father, husband, and house painter. There’s nothing more he wants to do. He’s not interested in coming out of his comfort zone and challenging monotony. The man that Cynthia fell in love with is no longer there.
Cynthia, once an aspiring doctor and a hopeless pessimist in search of something that made her believe in love, wants more from life than being a mother, wife, and nurse. As opposed to her husband, she wants to come out of her comfort zone and challenge monotony. She even tries to challenge Dean to do more with his life. However, he makes it very clear that, alongside him, that’s an impossibility.
While La La Land provides two possibilities when it comes to love and professional dreams, Blue Valentine makes it very clear that you must choose one or the other. The question the movie arises in its spectators is: what should a romantic partnership be like?
I saw this movie for the first time when I was a teenager. My understanding of the film was limited and naive. My fourteen-year-old self hated Cynthia because I thought that she was making a big deal out of nothing. I hated her because I thought she got angry over nothing, was exaggerating her sadness, and because she treated “poor” Dean horribly. My fourteen-year-old self loved Dean because I only saw the parts of him that were left behind in the past. I fell in love with Dean because he was funny and so kind to his daughter. I fell in love with the old Dean, the loving and caring one who was always there for Cynthia, and ignored the abuse that was always there.
I saw this movie again a couple of days ago, now as an adult. My understanding of the film changed completely, now that I have experience and understand how relationships work. My twenty-one-year-old self understands Cynthia’s struggles and absolutely hates Dean. This movie is not about romance― at least not in the scenes that focus on the present. Cynthia and Dean aren’t a healthy couple trying to save their marriage: they’re dysfunctional.
Dean emotionally abuses Cynthia throughout the film. Cynthia is out of love with him because he’s become everything she hates in a man. In fact, every man in Cynthia’s life has been abusive— her father, ex-boyfriend, and husband. She just wants to start fresh with her daughter, without having a man continually telling her what she lacks, what she can’t do, and how she should be.
This movie is a perfect portrayal of dysfunctional relationships and provides an ending that sides with the victim of abuse. When watching this film, try to focus on Cynthia’s fear-driven and cautious body language. Try to focus on Dean’s words and the tone of his voice, how he uses them to silence, belittle, and manipulate her. Focus on all the male characters in this film because they all represent different kinds of abuse, even Cynthia’s boss.
- Marriage Story
Marriage Story is a 2019 drama/comedy-drama movie about Charlie and Nicole, a married couple who is going through a divorce. Charlie is a successful stage director, while his soon-to-be ex-wife is an actress. For most of her career, Nicole has been an actress in her soon-to-be ex-husband’s theater company. In this company, she feels as though she doesn’t have a voice, a space for creative opinion, or the opportunity to direct something herself. She’s under her ex-husband’s shadow and wants to do more with her life. That’s why she decides to take an acting job in Los Angeles, far away from the New York scene and, of course, Charlie.
Charlie doesn’t want anything to change in his life. All that matters is what he wants and what he considers to be best for his family. He wants to stay in New York because that’s where his theater company is, despite Nicole’s desire to move to Los Angeles for some time. He doesn’t consider Nicole’s new show as art. He doesn’t take creative notes from her, yet he loves to give her creative notes on her acting. He’s been saying that she could direct a play someday in his theater company, but never makes an effort to make it a possibility. Even at the end, when Nicole wins an award for directing, he assumes it’s for acting.
Throughout most of the film, he doesn’t notice Nicole in the way she wants to be seen— as a creative woman who can write, direct and act in whichever way she wants. She wants to be recognized as an equal to him, not like a woman who’s part of her husband’s success.
Even though Charlie has his flaws, the movie doesn’t pick sides. Instead, it lets the spectator understand where both characters are coming from. During their divorce, both fight for the custody of their son and the residence of the family. Through her lawyer, Nicole does everything in her power to stay in Los Angeles with her son. However, she makes it very clear that Charlie could just move to Los Angeles if he wants to see his son, but doesn’t consider that his professional life is in New York. The question the movie incites in its spectators is: is love enough in a relationship? Or do you need something else to complement it?
This movie captures the rupture of a relationship that still has love, but somehow couldn’t make it work. It also portrays the arduous process of a heated divorce, especially when a child is involved. Both characters achieve raw, flawed, and perfect representations of real-life marriages where love doesn’t seem to be enough. It’ll leave you with a slight pain in your chest and some tears.
These are only three out of ten of what I consider to be the best romance movies ever. I focus on these three because they’re realistic portrayals of love, relationships, heartbreak, and dreams. All of these movies challenge the spectator to think about the correlation between love and professional aspirations. They also raise questions about the possibility or impossibility of the two existing in a healthy relationship.
As you may have noticed from my selection, I’m a true pessimist. These films appear to be romances on the surface when there’s a world of problems and flaws just underneath them. But is it pessimistic to want to see everything from a relationship, both the good and the bad? I’d like to think that there’s a part of me, a small part hidden deep inside of me, that is a hopeless romantic— a pessimist who believes in true love. I hope you enjoy and analyze these films as much as I have!