A creeping trend in Hollywood has been evolving and pulling thousands of heart strings. It comes with amazing soundtracks and talented casts with enviable wardrobes and hair cuts. The trend here is the explosion of realistic romantic films. They are romantic comedies and dramas that explore what relationships actually look like, and they aren’t always glittering with hope, forgiveness and a promising future. Although I love and appreciate the artfully crafted screenplays and the beautiful landscapes, I have a beef with all these movies cracking down on happy relationships, and it’s not because I’m an overly optimistic romantic, it’s because these movies just leave me depressed for days.
So, I’m sure there have been numerous independent films that have quietly conquered this territory, but films like Blue Valentine and The Romantics went mainstream in 2010 and loudly questioned the validity of infinitely-lasting strong relationships. In fact, more and more of these tragic films seem to be coming out and defining what post-modern love is really like. Other movies like Take This Waltz and Like Crazy also illuminate the realities of love. They highlight what normally and statistically happens in relationships: heart-break, deceit and disappointment. It’s like these screenwriters are moving along with the times and keeping in mind the ever-increasing divorce rates and doomed marriages.
The aforementioned films have all been released within the last three years and I’m going to classify them as “realistic romantic films” because they share the common theme of authentic and hard love. For those of you who have not seen these movies, here are some quick synopses.
Like Crazy centers around two people who meet in college. Felicity Jones’ character is from Britain and Anton Yelchin plays the American, and both dance around a real relationship because they end up being torn apart by thousands of miles. Instead of going the distance, these two find it hard to work around their long-distance lifestyle and the logistics blatantly reflect real life.
Blue Valentine stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, whose characters fell so deeply in love that they eventually allowed their feelings to be trampled and wizened by life itself.
In The Romantics, a young woman played by Katie Holmes is still in love with a handsome yuppie, but can’t do anything about it because he’s getting married to her best friend. They talk the night before and both realize they still have feelings for each other, but it’s no Wedding Singer and the wedding doesn’t get called off, because I guess that never really happens, right?
Lastly, in Take This Waltz, a young married couple (Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen) are comfortably in love, when along comes Luke Kirby, the uber-fit human taxi. Michelle’s character has to decide between the two men, and the decision becomes blurry as the plot develops and climaxes.
Okay, so clearly there is a time and place for our realistic romantic movies. Coming down from a caffeine high, days or even weeks after a bad break-up or finding out how much money you really make before taxes is definitely not the best time to watch Michelle Williams shoot Ryan Gosling down when he tries to save their marriage. If you’re initially in a gruesome mood before you start the movie, be prepared to have your day entirely destroyed. The very first time I watched Blue Valentine was when my fiancé was out of a town for a business meeting. It was a Wednesday night, I ended up eating an entire pizza by myself and I called him at one in the morning just to make sure he was still in love with me. Because you never know. You could just run into an ex-lover at the supermarket and become unravelled at the thought of an alternate life with them.
The problem isn’t the movies themselves. The films I listed are really great, and I enjoyed watching them. The problem is how they make us feel. I do hesitate to bring up the point at all, because art in the form of film is successful when it makes you feel something. So in no way am I saying all of these movies are unsuccessful, I’m merely admitting the fact that I sometimes can’t take being so deeply affected by a story. Sometimes, I would rather just watch When Harry Met Sally, No Strings Attached or Knocked Up, films that put characters in tricky or unfathomable situations, and even though there’s initial resistance or a barrier keeping the two apart, the couple always end up falling in love after they have some sort of epic epiphany that usually involves a song from the ’90s and a sudden look of determined bewilderment. The nerdy girl will always win the heart of the handsome guy who is always street-smart and hilarious, and opposites always stay attracted; this formula is what I grew up with and what I’ve always kept in my back pocket for when times got tough (see: high-school, college).
Sometimes, we just crave what we know and want, like how I crave IHOP strawberry-banana pancakes because I know they will be amazing, even though I have ordered them a hundred times. They provide me with infinite comfort. The same goes for cheesy rom-coms; you know exactly how the movie will end but you get that comfort which realistic romantic films never give you, they just leave you wondering if love even exists at all, or if it was fabricated to begin with.
What do you think about realistic romantic movies? Do you prefer them to rom-coms?