It’s that time of the year, again.
When couples who claim to be in love make sure they spam our Insta stories by a torrent of unbearably cutesy pictures and those who are single pretend it’s “just another day” and stuff their faces. (The latter’s a good idea, because, hello discounts!)
Then there are the almost-lovers, those who are still manoeuvring the treacherous path of modern romance.
To ensure that every sub-set of the ever-widening romantic spectrum is covered, we’ve compiled a list of 6 films that encapsulate everything about love - the sweet anxiety of first dates, the emotional euphoria of early romance, the comfortable monotony of medium-term relationships, and the sheer anguish one feels in long-term equations.
Ok, kidding, but you get it.
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Of course, there are the usual Love Actually-Sleepless In Seattle-Before Sunrise recommendations, but this isn’t that. Here are films that delve a little deeper into romantic psychology while also offering the fantasy-like narrative which makes the bitter truths of love just a little easier to swallow.
In A Relationship
Sam Boyd’s Los Angeles-set romantic drama neatly encapsulates the myriad complications of the millennial dating landscape.
The film’s primary narrative revolves around a couple who’s been dating for 5 years (although the man says it’s “only 3”) and and another who’s only recently begun dating (although the woman says they are only “hanging out”). In A Relationship simmers with relatable youthful conflicts such as flaking on commitment, the constant search for ‘someone better,’ and just the epidemic of self-inflicted unhappiness that the current generation seems to be grappling with.
When a new hookup is only a few swipes away, what’s the real incentive to stay in a relationship?
Among the many truths the film manages to distill includes chronicling a point in relationship when the romance has faded and the real work needs to begin, while simultaneously contrasting it with a new romance that’s fundamentally based on lies and manipulation. In the modern dating spectrum, nobody has a clue about where we’re headed, the film seems to (rightfully) suggest.
Starring Emma Roberts and Michael Angarano, In A Relationship asks searching questions about the longevity, the uncertainty and the inevitability of love and is a great watch for everyone - the couples, the singletons, and the ones ‘hanging out.’
While the film can’t be found on any streaming platforms, it’s a title worth picking up a DVD of.
Blue Jay - Netflix
Starring Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass, who also wrote the screenplay, Blue Jay is about forgone but unforgotten romances, the timelessness of young love, and why, at times, a chance encounter at a supermarket is all it takes to trigger long-suppressed memories of a shared past.
Shot in stunning black-and-white, the film makes you fuzzy with each passing scene.
Duplass’s Jim bumps into his high-school girlfriend after years and the couple end up spending an evening together, ruminating over the gentle disappointments of the past and listening to old tapes, where they once role-played as a middle-aged couple. Eventually, one learns about a dark event that caused their separation, and how that affected the course of their lives.
Moody, melancholic, introspective and yet hopeful, Blue Jay is a piercingly powerful love story, one that makes you confront wounds of the past the scars of which still live on.
Carol - Netflix
Featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in what are perhaps their career-best performance, Carol is a lesbian romance set in ’50s New York. A sweeping tale of forbidden love amidst a culture of homophobia, Carol is a visually enchanting portrait that ragingly roots for dignity in love and questions archaic notions of morality.
A biting social commentary of conservative America, Carol is adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, which was a revolutionary piece of work, back when it was first published in 1952.
Throughout the narrative, director Todd Haynes’ consistently maintains a mournful tone, one that is indicative of the violence society inflicts on homosexuals. However, the protagonists of the movie refuse to abide by societal norms, finding a brief, and possibly a longer window into a lustful romance that develops into something deeper over time.
Exquisitely shot, Carol is a beautiful love story that gives you lovers worth rooting for and ones who are unafraid to live “against their grain.”
Call Me By Your Name - Amazon Prime Video
Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age drama is an achingly melancholic portrait of first love, an invigorating emotional deep dive that’s bound to leave you feeling wholesome. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer deliver moving performances as two lovers who unite and separate over a course of summer in a sleepy town in Northern Italy.
Carrying the infectious energy that often follows a young romance, Call Me By Your Name has a bright, uplifting colour palette, which is perfectly complemented by Sufjan Stevens’ soulful compositions that run through the narrative.
Leisurely bicycle rides, lazy days spent swimming in the lake, and most of all, a pair of the coolest parents ever, make Call Me By Your Name make one of the best gay romances, one that doesn’t treat homosexual love stories as any different then heteronormative ones.
A woefully underrated French indie, Noemie Lvovsky’s Camille Redouble (or Camille Rewinds, the English title), asks a question and presents a fantasy we’ve all imagined at various points. What if you had the chance to go back to your youth with the wisdom of hindsight?
In the film, Lvovsky plays a 40-something alcoholic actress reduced to B-grade films (like The Revenge of the Butcher), who is dumped by her husband of 25 years. She passes out on a snowy New Year’s Eve only to wake up as a 16-year old. Knowing that the boy she’s going to fall in love with is eventually going to walk out of her life, will she still fall for him? Camilla Redouble’s is a film which argues that youthful impulses cannot be governed by fear and the final outcome of a love story cannot always become its defining feature.
With some love stories, the film suggests, one shouldn’t always be sad that they are over, but glad that they happened in the first place at all. It’s a whimsical little film that offers quirks about 80s pop-culture in France while also giving nuggets of wisdom and life lessons along the way.
La La Land - Amazon Prime Video
Just watch La La Land.