Happy post-Valentine’s Day everyone! I was trying to come up with a mushy blog post for V-Day but hard as I try, I couldn’t squeeze anything from my head. (You cannot write what you don’t know after all.)
Not that I am completely cynical about Valentine’s Day, it’s just I couldn’t care less about all the romantic hullabaloo that are always associated with this day. Let’s just say that years and years of reinforcement does that to you.
To compensate for my apparent lack of interest in anything romantic, I made a list of films that explore the complicated reality behind this strange human connection we define as love. In their own unique way, these films portray a suppressed version of love: one that we don’t often see in books and films, but nonetheless acknowledge in real life.
I have already watched all of the films in this humble selection, some becoming my all-time favorites, so I tried my best not to spoil it for readers and to provide only the simplest overview.
Let’s get the list rolling!
1. Before Trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013)
Directed by Richard Linklater, Before Trilogy spans across time (with nine years between each installment) and explores an extensive list of themes on life, love, death and so much more, through the conversations of Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy respectively.
The film allows us to witness the unfolding of a love that stemmed from the unanticipated encounter of two people and eventually brings us to the core of what it takes to sustain this soulful union.
2. Vanilla Sky (2001)
A messy hodgepodge of science fiction, thriller and romance heightened by a little touch of mind-bending twists, Vanilla Sky boasts a story of a tragic love, a love unfulfilled; a love that makes you long for someone, even in dreams, even after a thousand lifetime.
I included this film in the list because it successfully portrays the pain and frustration of a person who didn’t end up with the one he wanted to be with, and was only left with the slightest of hope to cling on: “See you in another life . . .”
3. Lost in Translation (2003)
This Sofia Coppola film knows exactly well the language of existential alienation and allows the audience to engage in the sentiment. In the midst of an overwhelming Tokyo, the film captures the silent estrangement of two lonely people: lost within their lives, their marriages and their foreign environment.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
A highly original story intensified by the familiar experience of falling in and out of love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind highlights the allure of forgetting and creates an ideal for the brokenhearted: a chance to erase memories and to start on a clean slate.
But the denouement is rather wise: it teaches us that no amount of erasure can overpower the will to love and demonstrates what real love is all about: a compromise between two people with two conflicting personalities whose middle ground is love.
5. 500 Days of Summer (2009)
Funny, entertaining and real is my initial impression of the film. 500 Days of Summer is brutally honest when it comes to shattering the notions of romantic love and shows no guilt for the kind of ending it has. Tom Hansen (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets his perfect anti-thesis in the character of Summer Finn (played by Zooey Deschanel).
Whether you love or hate Summer, you can not deny the fact that she turned Tom’s romantic notions to a complete 360 shift and left him completely rethinking his assumptions on love.
6. Blue Valentine (2010)
Blue Valentine provides a heart-slicing insight into the lives of two people whose marriage is at the brink of a collapse. Presenting the current troubled married life of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) alternately with the beautiful young love they once had in the past, Blue Valentine successfully interprets the striking difference that time is able to impact on love and relationship.
Blue Valentine is an honest response to the question of what happens after the I Do’s and the I Love You’s, and is a remarkably raw portrayal of real-life love.
7. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
I understand that the French have a flair for nudity, and this film is just one among the many to prove that claim. But more than the explicit sex scenes, Blue is the Warmest Color also braves to uncover the layers of this heartbreaking story and exposes a deeper image: one that bares all feelings and strips the heart of its emotional pretense.
I love this film so much because it was so honest, so original. It communicates emotions on a meta-level: it’s as if you are the one behind the screen acting and at the same time sitting there watching. The film fuses with your sentiments, becoming one and whole.
8. Before We Go (2014)
Before We Go may be a premature attempt to walk in the footsteps of its predecessors, as the film appears to be a crossroad between the Before Trilogy and Lost in Translation. But halfway through, the story feels more and more bulky, and less and less real.
Nonetheless, it showcases a story of a woman lost in her marriage and of a man who’s trying to come into terms with his life, and how an unexpected encounter between them brings a beautiful turn for their present predicament.
9. Comet (2014)
If you are into parallel universe and perplexing plots, this film might just be perfect for you. Comet explores the six-year relationship of Dell (Justin Long) and Kimberly (Emmy Rossum) and takes us to the ups and downs of love.
10. Still Alice (2014)
And finally to cap off the list, we have a film that accurately portrays the sad but beautiful battle of the renowned linguistic professor Dr. Alice Howland (played by Julianne Moore) against the notorious Alzheimer’s Disease. Even though it isn’t a story about couples, I decided to include this film in the list because it speaks so much reality about love: that love is a combined effort of hard work, patience, trust and understanding.