Many of us love watching a film on Valentine’s Day, but don’t want to sit through another romantic comedy with stock characters, predictable plot and increasingly dirty humour. Instead of a hopeful and big-hearted feeling, we’re left thinking Hollywood romance has no relevance to real life or relationships.
To be fair, the genre has produced some excellent stuff, especially in its early days. However, studios now use it as a template to churn out movies like cookies on a conveyor belt, rarely producing anything fresh or relevant.
OK, so film recommendations may not be our manifesto, but we think pre- and after-dinner activities are important too! We have therefore compiled a list of flicks which are all very romantic but dare to stray from the standard formula. Hopefully, picking something like this will help make Valentine’s Day a little more interesting and uplifting.
Let us know what you think!
A surprisingly charming fairy tale about beauty, social acceptance and the honesty of romantic motives. Starring Christina Ricci as the young heroine cursed with a pig’s snout (and some serious mother issues) and James McAvoy in one of his earliest appearances on the big screen.
An absolute classic. The grouch falling in love is an old formula, but Bill Murray’s cantankerous weatherman stuck in the same dull day in the same little town is a perfect metaphor for how we all feel sometimes. Watching him abandon his prejudices and recover his lust for life is at once heartfelt and brilliantly funny.
Unashamedly romantic. Young lust, true loves, siblings, parents, children and even friendships are deployed to get our emotions bubbling over in this coming-of-age film. The time twist is thought-provoking and keeps it from feeling overly sentimental, while big laughs, great characters and its honest depiction of relationships make this compelling to watch.
One of Pixar’s many outstanding movies. Strip away the apocalyptic backdrop and this is a classic love story of two individuals overcoming immense odds to be together. The smart narrative, gorgeous setpieces and captivating animation make this memorable and fairly unique among movies about 01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101 (LOVE).
Two middle-aged buddies go on a stag party in California’s wine country, where their childish neuroses are laid bare as they meet new people, talk about life and drink a hell of a lot of wine. The comedy is understated and hilarious, and Paul Giamatti’s stumbling pursuit of love is sweet and funny. Definitely watch this with a bottle of red wine.
March of the Penguins
This nature documentary is worth watching just for its stunning photography and the astonishing annual event it depicts. The movie also plays on our empathy for these animals which mate for life and endure unimaginable conditions in their partnership to produce a single offspring. Feel-good philosophising at its best.
Rust and Bone
A stunning Belgian movie which reminds us that love can thrive even under the toughest conditions. Two very different people, each dealing with a brutal setback in their own lives, come together unexpectedly and demonstrate the power and importance of our relationships with others. Magnificent performances from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts.
This excellent comedy-drama depicts a young man with cancer as he, and those around him, attempt to deal with his diagnosis. Of course, things get worse before they get better, but this movie manages to combine consistent humour with realistic and stirring depictions of strength, love and friendship. Plus, there’s a greyhound in it called Skeletor.
Another twist on a solid formula, The Way explores the relationship between a father and his son, and how it continues to evolve after the son’s unexpected death. The fact that actors Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez (who also directed the film) are father and son in real life adds a certain poignancy to Sheen’s onscreen journey.
Something’s Gotta Give
Nancy Meyers movies tend to deliver, but this one, which basically says that love can happen whatever your age, is a cracker. Meyers likes to show relationships that are ignored by mainstream cinema, but she combines this with enough familiar motifs to make us feel at home, making the characters and comedy all the more effective. Very cheerful.
BONUS PICK: Shaun of the Dead
Think about it. It’s really just a story about a guy proving how much he loves a girl in order to be with her. Simon Pegg even described it as a “zom rom com” when it was released. Although it’s Shaun’s relationship with Ed and his stepfather that generate the most moving moments. It’s also brilliantly funny, provided you’re not squeamish.
One final piece of advice: steer clear of Antichrist and Gone Girl – both fine and very interesting movies, but not exactly recommended for enhancing the Valentine’s Day mood!