Modern day romanticism seems to inevitably centre around cinema these days, both onscreen and off.
The essential ingredients of the average date among the average couple largely consists of the age-old courtship ritual of “dinner and a movie”.
Meanwhile, twee rom-coms have conditioned us to believe in the feasibility of Love At First Sight and the power of the last-minute Grand Romantic Gesture.
Film and love go together about as well as comic books and lonely Saturday nights (I should know). Whether you’re a cranky cynic or a moonstruck romantic, you have to admit, Cupid does exist, and that cherubic little capitalist tool can strike through celluloid.
It’s why God invented the couple seat. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’ve compiled a list of my top five flicks that inspire l’amour, in case you’re looking for a movie to snuggle up to your date to after that romantic Valentine’s dinner.
5) Wall-E (2008)
What does it say when the sweetest, most charming love story of 2008 took place in an animation feature?
It says a lot about the stale blandness of the modern romance movie but more importantly, it says a lot more about the audacious genius of Pixar.
This ambrosial futuristic tale of the anthropomorphic and monosyllabic relationship between sooty trash-salvaging WALL-E (I’m a PC) and the sleekly elegant EVE (I’m a Mac) is as delightfully winsome as any love story I’ve ever seen.
Wall-E proved to be a lot more than its eco-friendly message and lush visuals, it reaffirms that if sentience exists, so must love. And true love goes beyond your programming software and aesthetic hardware.
4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Charlie Kaufman’s mind-bending, non-linear psychological drama about the tricks love can play with your memories isn’t your traditional Valentine’s fare.
In this case, its unique obliqueness is exactly what makes it one of the greatest love stories ever told. The title is taken from the poem Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope, in which forgetfulness becomes the only refuge for the poem’s tragic lovelorn protagonist.
Similarly the characters in Eternal Sunshine try to erase the memories of their painfully-ended relationship only to discover that despite the present emotional agony, some memories are worth treasuring.
This twisty sci-fi parable asks, “Are we really better off forgetting the heartache?” Not when the price is forgetting why you loved someone in the first place.
3) When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
This was probably the movie that ruined the romantic comedy genre for me, simply because I didn’t think anything could have topped When Harry Met Sally. It’s been 21 years and true enough, no rom-com ever did come close.
Rob Reiner’s eye for the perfect punchline delivered at the perfect time (“I’ll have what she’s having.”) combined with the insane chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan made this movie a perennial favourite of mine.
Plenty of films have explored themes of male and female friends walking the tightrope between close friendship and passionate love, but none have done it as tenderly or as funnily as this Nora Ephron-penned classic.
2) Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Beauty and the Beast represented the pinnacle of the 1990s Disney renaissance and encapsulates the long forgotten charm and wonder of traditional storybook love.
Cynics out there may argue that such fairy tales poison the minds of impressionable young girls with impossibly romantic idealism. Pay them no heed.
The truth is the world could use a little bit more idealism in this day and age. This beautifully animated and elegantly told “Once upon a time” story about a gorgeous young woman who falls in love with a prince who has been transformed into an ugly Beast is filled with dazzling musical numbers and timeless joy.
Beauty and the Beast isa masterpiece still capable of sweeping people off their feet.
1) Before Sunrise (1995)
Thefilmmaking may be minimalist but nothing captures the thrill of getting to know someone and the joy of good conversation with a kindred spirit as naturalistically as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as Jesse and Celine, do nothing but walk around Vienna, simply talking to each other about their lives, loves, dreams, disappointments and everything in between for the duration of this marvellous film.
No other romance movie has ever crafted two more mesmerisingly vivid characters or a more earnestly believable courtship. Jesse and Celine’s almost lyrical affair during a single magical night may be bittersweet in its briefness, but its transience is precisely what makes this story so memorable.
Before Sunrise’s poignant ‘lo-fi’ love story is perfection.
Brokeback Mountain (2005), Edward Scissorhands (1990), My Girl (1991), Casablanca (1942), West Side Story (1961), Titanic (1997), Before Sunset (2004), Chunking Express (1994), Once (2006).