iN Magazine’s Sam Ely, award winning film writer and general cinephile, runs down his favourite romantic films for this Valentine’s Day.
As a keen cinema goer, Valentine’s Day traditionally fills me with absolute abject terror. As it inevitably means I will be forced to suffer the dreaded ‘rom com’. I can picture it now: Hugh Grant walks in, farts, and then the love interest pulls a funny face. And, inexplicably, the theatre explodes into raucous laughter, leaving me staring at the silver screen wondering where it all went wrong.
There’s a misconception that men don’t like romance films. In my experience men have no problem with romance films, what they have a problem with bad romance films. Otherwise known as the ‘chick flick’, the formulaic ‘red-letter-on-white-back-ground-poster’ tripe that is manufactured and unleashed on the unsuspecting public in a financial bid to hit their three month turnover target.
These poor substitutes for love stories are mass produced, with such scheduling accuracy and evasion of risk, it’s a wonder that film executives aren’t trying their luck at key hole surgery. Or better yet, thinking up better stories.
The people need an alternative. Which is where I graciously step in; I’ve examined my archive of cinema to bring you a breakdown of four truly great romance films.
In brief: He wrote her letters every day.
‘The Notebook’ is often flagged as a firm favourite among womankind. Many of whom will use it as a test of romantic investment. Apparently there are two sorts of men, those who like ‘The Notebook’ and those who make lousy husbands.
Fortunately for all those couples out there who are looking for a cinematic comprise along with their Chinese takeaway, this Valentine’s Day ‘The Notebook’ is a genuine and heartfelt love story.
It’s like a visual digest of all those pulp romance books you find in WH Smiths, but with an element of slight tongue-in-cheek self-reflection and good humour which marks it out. The careful balance of common topes and clichés results in a simple and endearing love story that will no doubt have your beloved in tears.
In brief: Hugh Jackman floats in space with a tree. Sometimes.
If you’re in the mood for something more intellectual, then I suggest the multi-timeline realities of ‘The Fountain’ where Hugh Jackman plays a Spanish conquistador, a clinical research doctor and a space travelling monk mourning his beloved. Yes, you heard right.
Darren Aronofsky, director of, ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘The Wrestler’, helms this underappreciated masterpiece and creates a visually stunning and sincere story, which focuses on both loss and recovery as the important foundations for true love.
Both Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz performances are brilliant, of course, whilst the score draws the film to a powerful and moving climax.
Confusing? To some. Up to interpretation? Possibly. Did it make me cry like a sissy girl? Absolutely. There’s no other film like it, and I would encourage you to give it a second chance if it didn’t float your boat the first time.
In brief: Two robots sync hearts.
There’s not much I can praise about this film that has not been said before. The animation is flawless; it looks beautiful, sounds great etc. But I suppose the one thing I don’t mind repeating, is its script.
When you think about it, computer animation really is an amazing feat. To consider the fact that a series of 1s and 0s controlling computer polygons can have an audience so convinced that two adorable little robots are genuinely in love, is testament to Pixar’s animation and storytelling craft.
It is so subtly constructed you often forget that you are watching an animation, because you are so engaged in the delicate relationship between Wall-E and Eve.
Pixar have always been masters of storytelling, but if you’re for an animated love story with a tad more melancholy then consider ‘Up’. The first ten minutes alone will set your eyes leaking.
In brief: A pair of cowboys gets to know each other.
For some, this is as alternative as romance films get. For others it draws much needed attention to a niche market. In any case it’s a beautiful love story and perfect if you fancy trying something different from the menu.
Ang Lee directs this gripping love story for which his efforts were rewarded with an Oscar. Stunning cinematography of sweeping landscapes with a tight script make for an excellent film; but what really marks Brokeback out for me is the powerful performances from its strong cast.
This was one of Heath Ledger’s final roles and for me its one of his most memorable performances; a tragic reminder of how he was cut down in his prime.
Also, if it’s your cup of tea, the European release of the film has a shot of Ledger in the all together. My favourite scene however has to be when Jack Gyllenhaal’s father in law comes for thanksgiving. A moving scene with incredibly simple dramatic action and perfect timing that reveals so much about the relationships between the characters. That’s the stuff of really good cinema.
It’s a superbly crafted film that should have you in tears by the end. Also for any guy who’s still sceptical, at one point Anne Hathaway gets her boobies out and they are top dollar.