Hannah Smith ’26
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Valentine’s Day is a dividing holiday. It is either a day filled with public displays of affection or private conversations with yourself pondering what could have gone wrong with that last guy. Either way, it is the perfect day to put on a romance film. Whether you are hardly watching it and just staring lovingly into your partner’s eyes or yelling at the screen for giving you a false sense of hope, let this act as a guide to your cinematic event of the day. Of course, you cannot go wrong with any of the classics, like “Casablanca” or “Titanic,” but here is an extensive list of romance films that will hopefully keep you entertained during this season of love.
Nothing screams Valentine’s Day like a classic love story. If you are looking for something new with that same classic Hollywood charm, I recommend “Roman Holiday” starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. A naive princess bumps into a handsome newspaper man while on a life-changing excursion, in which she has run away from her castle and gets a cute pixie haircut. A similarly charming film with a more contemporary twist is “Before Sunrise,” the first film of the “Before Sunrise” trilogy about a young couple who meet on a train and go on a grandiose Persian adventure over the span of just one day. To prepare for the Oscars season, take a look at “Past Lives,” a story of two childhood best friends reuniting to form a beautiful love triangle. A past Oscar nominee, “Carol,” has the same classical aesthetic as any great old fashioned romance film with a modern focus on the relationship between a queer couple, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Taking a step away from the traditional romance film, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster” are two of the most original screenplays that tackle the idea of a bizarre love story that sticks with you for years to come.
Here are a few of my favorite romance films from around the world. The Bollywood epic “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” is unlike anything I have seen before, filled with incredible musical numbers and one of the most competently executed enemies-to-lovers I have seen. Directed by legendary Chinese film director Wong Kar-wai, “In the Mood for Love” is widely considered one of the greatest romance films of the century told in such a unique way. If you have been looking for an excuse to get into the cinema of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda’s “Le Bonheur” is a surprisingly charming story of love and loss told through a family with a husband who is cheating on his wife. I swear, it is not as bleak as it sounds. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is one of the most entertaining romance-action-thriller films I have ever seen. Michelle Yeoh puts on the performance of a lifetime, combining her incredible acting skills with her martial arts training. This film is like if you combined “The Matrix” and “Sense and Sensibility.”
Romantic comedies are not always the best. No offense to the Hallmark Channel, but you might find these films a little more well-rounded. First is a great buddy film, “I Love You, Man.” Paul Rudd and Jason Segal become best friends after Rudd realizes he does not have any friends
other than his wife. It is one of the funniest films on this list, alongside “But I’m a Cheerleader,” a queer high school film about a girl who only realizes she is gay after her parents send her to a conversion boot camp, and “High Fidelity,” a 2000 film centered around breakups, great music, and Jack Black with a soul patch. “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” star comedic legends Adam Sandler and Steve Carell in more serious roles while maintaining all that we love about romantic comedies. As a writer for a college newspaper, it would be criminal to not recommend “The Graduate,” a true classic, and “Kicking & Screaming,” the Noah Baumbach film about college graduates trying to navigate their new lives outside their university, not to be confused with the Will Ferrell soccer comedy of the same name.
If you want something to feel especially personal and devastating, you should do a double feature of “Her” and “Lost in Translation.” “Her” and “Lost in Translation” were written and directed by Spike Jonze and Sophia Coppola respectively. These two filmmakers were married from 1999 until their divorce in 2003. While battling in court to put an end to their faded marriage, Coppola wrote “Lost in Translation,” a story about a platonic relationship between a middle-aged man in crisis, portrayed by Bill Murray, and a sweet newlywed, Scarlett Johansson, who just so happen to meet while on a trip to Tokyo. Murray plays a forgotten actor who is in Japan to film a commercial he despises because it forces him to come to terms with the idea that he is washed up after so many years in the industry. Johansson has accompanied her new husband, a childish photographer based on Jonze, on a business trip, but is frequently left alone when he abandons her to be with the younger top models. The two become friends and spend most of their time together after bonding over their isolation in a foreign city.
Ten years later, Jonze releases “Her,” a science fiction romance film about a heartbroken man played by Joaquin Phoenix, who finds love in an Alexa-like AI played by Scarlett Johansson. Phoenix has just ended a long relationship with who he thinks is the love of his life, a woman played by Rooney Mara based on Coppola, and feels completely alone in his futuristic world until he forms a relationship with a disembodied voice. Watching these two films in conversation with one another is a sure-fire way to feel heartbroken on one of the year’s most depressing holidays. But of course, you can watch these films with love in your heart and it will appear to you as two brilliantly made romance films with absolutely no ulterior motives.