Love it or hate it, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is always the movies. From arthouse drama to cheesy rom-coms to depressing tear-jerkers, we all have our favourite kinds of romance film. There’s a wide variety of faves even amongst the Much Ado team, so hopefully our recommendation list will give you a new idea or two this February 14th!
(500) Days of Summer
Why conform to watching a traditional romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day? Why submit to Hollywood’s saccharine nature and settle down with a formulaic feature when you could instead confront the heartache that comes with unrequited love and the realisation that no person is ever really what you imagine them to be? If you’re looking for a bit of realism in your romance, then 500 Days of Summer is the film for you. Its central theme can be summed up in one line delivered by a young Chloë Grace Moretz’s character, the younger sister of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hopeless protagonist Tom, as she tells him that ‘just because some girl is into the same bizzaro crap as you, that doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate.’ Truer words were never spoken, indeed. There is no doubt that every one of us is at least somewhat guilty of convincing ourselves that someone is the one for us simply because they share a few of our interests. What 500 Days of Summer does is show just how problematic this kind of thinking is and how disastrous it can be for us in the long run, by having Tom break his own heart in attempting to believe that the titular Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is the person he has made her out to be in his head. Summer may like the same music as Tom, she may enjoy the same kind of cinema as he does, but that doesn’t mean that the two are made for each other, or that they are even remotely compatible. Reality can never truly match our expectations, 500 Days of Summer reminds us, and people are not ours to mould into whatever we want them to be. It is the perfect antidote to the onslaught of Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that infiltrate cinemas around this time of year and shows us that love is, often, not what we believe it to be.
– Hannah Ryan
At Much Ado, we tend to skew for the unconventional, but sometimes you just want to forego the challenging arthouse for a light, sappy rom-com — think When Harry Met Sally, Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary. I’m in love with love and I argue the greatest film that embodies this is About Time. It’s so disgustingly sweet, so sickeningly romantic, and it’s refreshing to see a romance film without major obstacles, one that’s pure and uncynical about love. Yes, it’s a high-concept film — Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his father that the men in his family can time travel, and uses his newfound ability to win the girl of his dreams (Rachel McAdams) — but what makes About Time so wonderful is that it’s so normal. The first date, meeting the parents, the wedding, the kids — About Time has all the ingredients that make you reconsider your choice to avoid the white picket fence life. It is by no means a perfect film, but About Time’s simple message about appreciating the little things in life is always a welcome reminder, and the film conveys it beautifully. Spoilers for the uninitiated but Tim later stops travelling through time because, why bother reliving the past when every new day is special? How gross and romantic is that?
– Iana Murray
A Matter of Life and Death
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s productions are known for their elaborate production design, which has proven itself so difficult to top even nowadays. When you’re looking at a film much like A Matter of Life and Death, however, there’s another treat present that goes beyond the very way that the film looks – for it is a film that tests the limits of where love can go. This is a romance that keeps itself unrestricted, beyond the very world that we live in, both figuratively and literally, as we bring into question about the extent to which romance affects us – as a matter of life and death.
For many reasons, this is the perfect Valentine’s Day movie because of the way in which it reaffirms the concept of love and how it defines as a human being. It is the perfect film about love and why it is essential to human life. It is the perfect film about love because of how it explores the very concept of love and how it extends even beyond the afterlife. Because the title alone gives away what it wants you to believe in love to be, a very matter that defines the life and death of the human soul. A truly spellbinding experience from the first frame to the last, what Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (or commonly known as the Archers) have created with a story that would service as much as a cheesy romantic comedy nowadays one of the most thoughtful films ever to have been made about what defines us as a human being.
– Jaime Rebanal
If you’re looking for a harsh kick in the proverbial teeth this Valentine’s Day, ‘Blue Valentine’ should be at the very top of your watchlist. Focused on the decline of the relationship between Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), the film uses a nonlinear narrative and a biting, realist approach to dialogue in order to maximise the emotional impact of this separation; the difference between the wistful hope they feel as youths and the pure loathing they feel as adults is so stark that it is painful (and gorgeous) to watch. For Dean and Cindy do not simply grow apart – they clash viciously, in a twisted love-hate conundrum that leaves both characters emotionally shattered. ‘Blue Valentine’ is perhaps not the film you want to watch if you’re much of an idealist, but if you’re feeling especially bitter about love, it will certainly affirm your expectations.
– Megan Christopher
He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not
If you want something less romantic and more twisted to watch on Valentine’s Day, He Loves Me. . . He Loves Me Not is the movie for you! When I first watched this film, with the French title À la folie. . . pas du tout), in my French class, my entire class was expecting a cute, romantic comedy based on the pretty VHS cover and the fact that it was the day before Valentine’s Day. Instead, we got a trippy, psychological thriller and absolutely loved it. Once we got over the initial shock of the film being entirely different than what we expected, it became an extremely fascinating movie that took many unexpected turns. What appears as a movie about a young woman, played by famed French actress Audrey Tatou, falling in love with and becoming obsessed with a doctor becomes so much more as the story unravels. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but it’s definitely the kind of film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
– Sydney Bembry
Having completely decimated the idea of romance in a previous post about 500 Days of Summer, I come to you now to say that there is one film you could watch this Valentine’s to restore your faith in love. Lilting is a beautiful, hugely underrated story of a love lost to tragic circumstances and a grief shared by strangers. It tells the tale of Richard (Ben Whishaw) and Junn (Cheng Pei-pei); two people with nothing in common, not even a language, that are brought together by an unimaginable heartbreak and find themselves united in mourning. To say any more would be to spoil this lovely little film and I wish to avoid that at all costs, for you should be able to discover the beauty of it all by yourself. What I will say, though, is that while Lilting may be a deeply sombre film, it is also a film filled with love. All kinds of love, in fact, from tender romance to familial bonds, to friendship. It is subtle, delicate, and real. It will stay with you long after watching, for it is the kind of film that will remind you of the fleeting nature of life and the eternal disposition of love. It is a must-watch this Valentine’s for those in search of a little meaning in their love stories.
– Hannah Ryan
This is a Japanese film about three emotionally abused teenagers from Roman Catholic communities trying to find their means to come of age. One is a devout Catholic boy specializing in upskirt photography, one a girl who hates all men but makes special exceptions for Jesus Christ and Kurt Cobain, and the other girl a stoic cultist taking pride in making her own church grow bigger by any means possible. Like the films of the Japanese New Wave, what Sion Sono had intended to create with the massive Love Exposure is at its very best designed to provoke discussion about how conservative aspects of modern society have ended up stinting and psychologically scarring the youth today, thus breaking apart a sense of their independence. This film also runs incredibly close to four hours in length at a total of 237 minutes total, but what better way to capture every fragment of the demented effects of sexual repression is there than to break it down bit by bit?
Love Exposure is exactly what its title promises to you, it is the literal exposure to “love” and the many side effects that come along the ride. If you ever have four hours to spare, the many perversions of Love Exposure will be enough to make every second of it worthwhile. It’s so many things at once but it mixes romantic comedy and action drama among the genres you can throw into the bag should be enough to tell oneself why it is the perfect Valentine’s Day film.
– Jaime Rebanal
I’ve never had a Valentine’s Day where I’ve been able to spend it with someone I genuinely loved. I’ve always been too shy to ask someone, or timing has just been really bad. Because of this, I’ve always found myself watching different romantic films to reaffirm my belief in true love. But there will always be one film that I go to on every Valentines Day, and that’s The Apartment by Billy Wilder. This film has one of the most hilarious and sweet scripts ever written, and some of the most brilliant actors who ever lived to bring Billy Wilder’s words to life. Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray all do fantastic jobs playing their given roles. Lemmon’s character, C.C Baxter, is someone I can relate to on a very personal level. He’s someone with large aspirations, but doesn’t have the confidence to pursue all of them. He’s a hopeless romantic who ends up finding himself on the little finger of the man preventing him from being with his true love. It’s a beautiful story of love, loss, and growing as a person, and it’s one of the best love stories ever told. For those who haven’t seen it, I would strongly recommend doing so. This is a film that helps me continue believing in true love, despite the cynicism and despair of the world we live in.
– Ryan Solomon
Weekend, if I am to remember correctly, was the first gay movie I had ever seen. Before Brokeback Mountain or A Single Man, it was this little drama about two guys that spend a weekend getting to know each other, with all the goods and the bads, and it made me see the kind of intimacy I was so used to seeing appear between straight couples between two men. Directed by Andrew Haigh and starring Tom Cullen and Chris New as the two leads, this critically acclaimed and somewhat commercially succesful 2011 British romantic drama is a close, personal exploration of fear, commitment, idealism and love: as well as providing commentary on important issues such as one’s journey of finding himself and his expression in a heteronormative society. Both actors give their all in even the smallest scenes, and the chemistry between them – which is undeniably there even without the sexual scenes – quickly becomes the most important carrier of the movie’s story. The camera closes up on their conversations and actions, even the most mundane ones, as if there is a government secret hidden behind the way they smoke or the way they make coffee – because there is: Haigh’s directorial choices enlighten the act of loving someone in its most secretive, sublime, lonely state; his work behind the scenes creates a realistic portrayal – both in political and social perspective – of “gay love”, which is a genre of its own I suppose. In the end, Weekend is a movie, in all its deglamorization of romance and naturalistic lens it holds over the simplistic existence of gay people in a city that is seemingly liberal but still very conservative behind closed doors, that makes its viewer believe in love. That love might be short, it might be sad, it might be an unfinished business, an unanswered voicemail even; but it is real.
– Deniz Çakır