The Real Deal: Realistic Romantic Movies Are Bringing Me Down

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.


“ I don’t know, I just feel like I should just stop thinking about it, you know, but I can’t. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies, you know, love at first sight. What do you think about love at first sight? You think you can love somebody just by looking at them? But the thing is man, I felt like I knew her, you ever get that feeling? Yeah, I probably don’t right… it felt like I did though” (Blue Valentine).

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?

Featured images via fanpop,,, slant magazine, , and Rotten Tomatoes

  • Alicia Collins

    My best friend feels the same way. I think the problem is grouping them all together because they are all romances. If she suggests we watch something fluffy, I wouldn’t make her choose between Revolutionary Road or Friends with Kids. It’s obviously going to be a Meg Ryan film from our childhood.

  • Kerry Winfrey

    Agreed 100%. I mean, I loved Blue Valentine and it was an amazing movie, but I’m STILL depressed about it. I watched it with my brother, and after we saw it we tried to make a list of couples we know who’ve been happily married for a long time. It was an incredibly short list that included Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who we don’t even know in real life, so yeah.

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Yes!! You’re like, “Oh my god. Who IS going to make it?”

  • Amy Wasserman

    I have to be honest, while I liked Blue Valentine, I hated both Take This Waltz and Like Crazy. I know that in “real” life people can be horrible to each other, but in both films the pacing and dialogue and visual style felt so look-at-me-I’m-an-honest-indie-film. It was predictable in a bad way. Most of what I felt towards both those films was a hatred of the way the characters treated each other. Plus, the mid-day drinks scene in TTW (you know if you’ve seen it) was terribly unrealistic. Who speaks like that? In my experience real people actually discuss their problems, or maybe I’m just around people that talk too much.

    I’ll take fluffy, light-hearted, completely unbelievable rom-coms any day over a film that tries too hard to be “real.” At least with a rom-com I know what I’m getting.

    • Erica Malanga

      I saw TTW and know EXACTLY what you’re talking about. The drinks scene was by far the most unrealistic.. the rest was just depressing. I didn’t know how to feel when it ended..

  • Rachel Dudash

    I’m with you, sort of. I loved The Romantics, Blue Valentine, and Like Crazy. But I also think I might be somewhat masochistic because sometimes I like watching really depressing, utterly hopeless movies. However, I agree. Sometimes, you go to the movies to be taken away from real life and transported to this happy place where everything solves itself in the end and it makes you feel happy and hopeful. Which is the same reason some days I read chick lit or YA novels instead of the classic literature I know will make me think more and has been on my “must-read” list for years. Sometimes you just want to know what you’re getting into and have a happy ending; there’s enough ambiguity and sadness in real life, I don’t need to always watch someone else’s trainwreck! (although, no lie, it can still be moving and beautiful. just not when I don’t feel like crying for hours)

    • Gina Vaynshteyn


  • Muji Angela Tang

    If you talk about Realistic Romantic Movies, you have to include “Closer” isn’t it?

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      I thought about including Closer, since it was depressing too, but the whole situation of swapping significant others seemed so unreal. Good movie though.

  • Lea Burgwald Birsch

    The evolution of depicting realistic conclusions to relationships seems to be focused upon Michelle Williams and Kate Winslet. I cannot properly explain their abilities, but both of these women wholly become the depressed mothers and wives. The viewer is unable to look away.
    The impact of “Revolutionary Road” and “Blue Valentine” was felt for weeks. As every moment passed the viewer falls deeper into the depression of their lives; the challenges of child rearing, the negligence of a spouse, the demands of continuing life as it is despite the primal urge of flight.
    I am equally moved by the art, but fearful of its influence. Suddenly my husband’s inability to take out the trash (in a timely fashion when asked) has much more weight than his innocent forgetfulness. Some stupid discussion ensues, the trash is taken out, and our day continues. I much prefer our goofy compliments in a “When Harry Met Sally” kind of way.

  • Marlana Moore

    You know, a lot of romances end this way but a small percentage really do have the real deal. I can still never forget what a guy I dated once told me about his grandparents. That they’d lived in houses near each other and grew up together practically. They fell in love and have been married ever since. He says he still sees how much they love each other in the way they watch each other and touch each other. It really warmed my heart to hear about them.

    • Tiffany Beverley

      That sounds soo sweet! I’d like to see a movie where the two leads get together, but in a non-clichéd way, you know?

  • Brikena Sela

    i like my happy endings too =/
    great post!

  • Tiffany Beverley

    Another realistic romantic movie I love is Celeste and Jesse Forever! Sad, but so good :) Though it is good to escape reality with a cheesy rom com every once in a while.

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      I really want to see Celeste and Jesse Forever! It’s in my Netflix queue (am I spelling that right?)

      • Tiffany Beverley

        Yup, that’s how you spell it! Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg are so good in it.

      • Alexandrea J. Wilson

        Oh my gosh! Celeste and Jesse is AMAZING! I love that movie! :)

  • Annie Whatsername

    I think ‘Last Night’ can be also a part of this category. Even though it was not quite clear whether their relationship survived, it was still questionable. Plus the movie had this ‘artsy’ and ‘depressing’ soundtrack.

  • Paula Flaherty

    I feel the exact opposite way. After the break down of my relationship with the love of my life I can not watch any happy ending love stories. I find it just too depressing as I know that they hardly ever end like the way they do. The lovers do not find each other again, get back together after making huge mistakes or meet each other at their secret place and run into each others arms. :-( It is just too sad to even watch the happily ever afters. I have not seen any of these movies so I should give them a go and see if there is any difference.

  • Alexandrea J. Wilson

    I think it’s great to have these balances. It’s good to have both-maybe have a movie night where you watch an awesome romantic love story movie and then right after (or right before) then watch a realistic romantic movie. lol See what that does for you! :) LOL

    No but I like the balance. I enjoy watching realistic romantic movies but I just try to not watch too many in one sitting and I try not to watch them when I’m going through a hard time. Just like I also don’t try to watch too many love stories when I need to be thinking clearly (and realistically) about my relationships.

    Anyway, great blog! :)

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