Love stories are a timeless concept. In classical mythology Venus and Cupid are commonly depicted as the God and Goddess of Love, associated with desire, passion, erotic love and attraction. Since the dawn of man this social construct has passed through millennia, gradually accumulating greater significance until Hollywood seemingly birthed the global clamor for that ‘perfect’ (and largely impossible) relationship, the one where you stare contently into each other’s eyes every night, and where nothing else seems to matter. Thanks to the silver screen, these inaccurate clichés have been perpetuated for decades.
One wonders why they could not just show us a relationship hampered by the husband hogging the bed, snoring too loudly, or squabbles over whose turn it is to take the garbage out. After all, that’s what real ‘true love’ is often all about. The arguments, the compromises, the lack of freedom and, more often than not, the inevitable heartbreak… maybe love is overrated.
There have been a gazillion cringe-inducing, formulaic, predictable and cheesy romance movies. Yet, this fact still does not make it any less depressing for anyone who may be single. Fear not, singletons, Valentine’s Day is not a day to be contemplating your shortcomings; it’s not you, it’s them! You might be the sensible ones. Let’s take a look at the movies which remind us how love is not necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be…
6 Marriage Story
We’ve all heard of someone having a particularly acrimonious and messy divorce – a friend, a relative, your own parents; the list goes on. Yet, Noah Baumbach‘s portrayal of a fractious couple going through a divorce in the 2019 drama Marriage Story provides a real, raw and accurate depiction of what post-marital life can be like for a couple who share a child. Adam Driver stars as a successful New York playwright, while Scarlett Johansson assumes the role as his equally successful actor-wife. It follows the story of the demise of their marriage, and the subsequent trials, tribulations and complexities of living coast-to-coast, having new relationships and co-parenting their son.
5 The Squid and the Whale
Noah Baumbach? A film on divorce? Déjà vu? The 2005 film The Squid and the Whale was actually inspired by the director’s experience of his parents’ divorce during his adolescence. Set against a 1986 Manhattan backdrop, The Squid and the Whale details the breakup of a seemingly idealized nuclear family. After tensions between self-obsessed father Bernard and unfaithful mother Joan Berkman (played by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, respectively) turn into bitter resentment, they are left to break the news of their separation to their two sons. Consequently, this leads to a division in the family, with son Walt (Owen Kline) siding with his father, and Frank (Jesse Eisenberg) favoring his mother. The Squid and the Whale is filled to the brim with charm and comedic subtleties, something to be expected from one of Wes Anderson’s former collaborators.
4 (500) Days of Summer
As narrator Richard McGonagle aptly puts it, “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.” In (500) Days of Summer, failed architect Tom (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a greetings card writer and is a firm believer in true love. When new recruit, Summer, very much a non-believer in true love, joins the company, Tom’s mundane, boring life is swiftly turned on its head. The pair quickly become an item (almost), though Summer is persistently reluctant to label them as a couple. Marc Webb’s feature film jumps back and forth between the good and bad periods of Tom and Summer’s turbulent relationship, from the early days of courtship, to the latter of bitter indignation, confusion and desperation. Perhaps this film is best served as a lesson in how love works, or does not work, in mysterious ways. As Gordon-Levitt himself said:
He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he does not care about much else going on in his life. A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person.
3 A Star is Born
Which version? All of them, essentially; the plot remains the same in all four films, from 1937 through to 2018. However, make no mistake, Bradley Cooper’s critically acclaimed take on the movie is arguably the best of the lot. Cooper stars as troubled musician Jackson Maine, whose battle with alcoholism launches him into a downward spiral. Lady Gaga plays Ally, an unknown, working as a waitress and singer. A blossoming relationship between the pair ensues, and eventually sees Ally realizing her dreams as an artist, while Jackson falls deeper and deeper into an alcohol-induced depression. The Guardian encapsulate the films sentiments perfectlycalling it an “outrageously watchable and colossally enjoyable new version, supercharged with dilithium crystals of pure melodrama”.
2 High Fidelity
Based on Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel, Stephen Frears’ film High Fidelity stars John Cusack as unlucky-in-love Rob Fleming, and documents the protagonist’s “five most memorable break-ups.” Commitment-phobe and record store owner, Rob desperately attempts to rekindle relationships with his ex, Laura (Iben Hjejle) as he takes a trip down memory lane to establish what really went wrong in his past relationships. Through the feature’s expert use of metafictional, direct address, we are guided through Rob Fleming’s list of most toxic relationships, as he analyzes each one to hilarious effect.
Michael Haneke’s Love scooped up both the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film back in 2012. The film follows the tragic story of elderly couple Georges and Anne. Anne suffers a severe stroke, leaving her partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. With the ever-mounting pressure placed on Georges to care for his sickly wife, Anne sustains a second devastating stroke leaving her in an almost vegetative state. The emotionally devastating film explores the intricacies of love, devotion and conflicting moral interests in later life. Love offers a heart-breaking insight into love, loss and loneliness, and has the ability to put viewers off love for good.
Netflix’s Marriage Story is a hit with viewers, and if you liked this story of a relationship that should not be, we’ve got a list of movies you need to stream that will further pull on your heart strings.
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