Below are some films we think really capture the nature of love that encompasses both the good and bad aspects of life.
Applying a generic genre to a film is rendered both redundant and unnecessary when entering a world where dreams become the story of our innermost desires. And David Lynch’s ferociously intense vision fuels the fundamental element that makes this magnificent masterpiece work so wonderfully; love. Love here shows all its faces: this is no syrupy rom-com territory. Here are all the sides of love we don’t want to admit to: the burning jealousy, the unrequited lust, the need to possess the essence of the person we most desire. Through Naomi Watts’ conflicted actress and Laura Harring’s seductive amnesiac, Lynch captures the polarised nature of the heart that can ultimately lead to our total destruction. Yet even amidst this dark and sinister mystery (and love is the ultimate dark mystery) there is a lyrical beauty of emotions in thrall as well: sexual chemistry, shared humour and the realisation one person has found a path to your very core. The sensations love brings are as honest and true here as any film that pretends to know the romantic genre by explicitly box-ticking. In other words, Betty and Rita feel like true love; in all its facets.
The perfect romantic-comedy from Woody Allen’s golden period, this has the blend of comedy, pathos and truth that has proved the litmus test for all romantic comedies since. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton may not appear the most likely couple on paper but their delightful and unique chemistry capture something very real, with their verbal sparring the crux of the film’s enduring joy. The film is absolutely hilarious from start to finish (an achievement in itself) with great gags and one-liners abundant. Allen’s Alvy Singer is caustic and narcissistic and Keaton’s Annie Hall is flighty and awkward but both characters remain immensely endearing and the film itself is very sweet in many respects. But it has a hard edge that often escapes the rom-com and, particularly in the concluding scenes, there’s a stark reminder that we don’t always end up with the person we want and even most love. This is a film about how love is subject to our own caprices, failings and errors in judgement. We all should remember to keep the shark moving.
One word can be used to sum up Derek Cianfrances 2010 drama, that word is raw. This is an examination of love from an unlikely perspective, this is the love that lingers once a relationship is about to meet an end. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play the couple in love, we see them find joy, optimism and eventually misery in this unforgiving cautionary tale of how love can leave you feeling two very different emotions. Blue Valentine is not easy viewing and I can see why most would choose not to watch with a loved one. But there’s a measure of love within this that’s rare, by showing the severe emotional strain this break-up has on Gosling and Williams you also highlight just how much love these two people had invested in each other. At times you have to see the dark to appreciate just how involved you are with another person; love can make us behave in ways that’s completely alien and cold. Blue Valentine is the perfect manifestation of a love that’s clinging onto every last hope of survival.
Very similar but also very different to Blue Valentine is David Leans Brief Encounter. Not only does this film provide one of the most iconic shots in modern film history but it also has the depth to explore the repression women felt in a post war Britain. On the surface the film explores the notion of meeting the perfect stranger and wondering what could be. The subtext however is riveting, there’s passion, austerity and morality. The film builds to a finale that even though you know the relationship between Laura and Alec cannot extend to adultery you believe something good could come from this brief encounter. It might be brief but the weight of love can be felt from the first scene to the last.
You wouldn’t initially think of Steve McQueen’s Shame as a love story in any way shape or form. It’s the tale of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a good-looking man with a decent job who has no problem meeting women. However, his life is somewhat in-complete and he’s trying to find someone with whom he can save a meaningful relationship. While in some ways this is the set up for many romantic comedies set in New York,Shame is a much darker and disturbing film. For Brandon has a secret – he is a sex addict. It’s not something that is openly discussed (the word ‘sex’ is only actually used once in the entire film) but is the guilt to which the film’s very title refers. Yet Shame does have at its heart a love story. It might appear that this will come via the relationship between Brandon and Marianne (Nicole Beharie), the women with whom Brandon actually connects on a level other than sex but subsequently she is the only woman with whom he is not able to sexually perform. The love story actually comes through his relationship with his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). She clearly has her own psychological issues but unknowingly the two characters find and rescue one another amidst their turbulent lives. McQueen uses music as a way of drawing the audience in to their relationship which seems on the surface to be volatile and argumentative. Yet when Sissy sings ‘New York, New York’, it reduces Brandon to an emotional level, a rare glimpse of him letting his guard down and unveiling the true sadness in his life. As the film progresses, the non-diegetic music comes into prominence. During a scene when Brandon sleeps with two prostitutes there is a pain etched on his face while Harry Escott’s high-pitched score makes a passionate sex scene a repulsive and off-putting thing to watch. This is quite brilliantly juxtaposed with the films climax in which Brandon finds Sissy in his bathroom, wrists slashed and blood everywhere. There is a different type of pain on Brandon’s face this time, one of fear that he might lose the one person that could get through to him and the soft piano music turns a horrifying situation into an almost tender scene. Brandon cradles his sister, hoping, wishing and praying that she might pull through. It’s this central love story that brings Shame through to its ending that is both happy and sad, tragic yet optimistic. Sissy and Brandon might just be ok if they can iron out their differences and stick together. After all, as Sissy says to her brother before her suicide attempt, they’re not bad people, they just come from a bad place.
Micahel Haneke paints a sad tale in many ways yet uplifting in others, in this story of an elderly man looking after his wife following a stroke. It’s a true representation of the marital vow ‘in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, till death us do part’. With little cutting and only diagetic music, the screenplay and two leads portray a simple yet poignant tale, rich in detail and theme and profoundly moving. It’s a tale we can all relate to, some more directly than others and it is pitched at absolutely the right level. It’s a real film about love and commitment and to this end is quite uplifting when you think about it (which you will do, for a long time). A shining light of a film in a world full of appalling rom-coms that think they’re about love, when they’re actually about 2 rich people that fancy each other and get together at the end to manipulate the audience into thinking they’re feeling something about life. It’s stripped of all this nonsense and it is an absolute masterpiece.