Let us be clear about one thing: this is certainly no anti-Valentine’s list. I’m sorry if you were on the lookout for cinematic celebrations of the singleton life and celluloid ‘fuck-yous’ to the face of romance and saccharine soppiness. No, these are all perfectly legitimate love stories. Maybe not typical ones, but love stories nontheless. And if you’re searching for a motion picture romance that isn’t a chick flick or starring Zac Efron in the leading role, these alternative choices could be perfect for your Valentine’s Day viewing.
Tarantino’s 2012 spaghetti western, starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson, among others, might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day. But beneath all of the shooting and the violence and the blood (oh god, so much blood), there is a deeply moving love story about an African-American slave going to incredible lengths to be reunited with his lost wife. And after Django has murdered pretty much everyone on the Candyland plantation and destroyed Calvin Candie’s mansion with a considerable amount of dynamite, he and his wife Broomhilda ride off into the sunset together on a horse. D’awwww.
If you think about it, Tim Burton’s gothic fairytale Edward Scissorhands is essentially about a love that can never be. After being taken in by suburb-dwelling Avon lady Peg Boggs, a bewildered Edward starts falling in love with her daughter, the typically beautiful high-school cheerleader, Kim. The only problem is, he sort of has scissors for hands. And although that may make him an expert hedge-trimmer/ hairstylist/ ice-sculptor, it also means that he cannot express love the way normal people can. He can’t even give Kim a proper hug. But despite his oddities, Kim starts falling in love with him too, and defends him in the face of angry mobs and her psycho jock ex-boyfriend. Also, the ice-sculpting scene where we see Kim dancing joyously in the falling snow from Edward’s hands may be one of the most romantic scenes ever in the history of film.
Perhaps the lightest film on this list, it is still far from being typically romantic. Starring John Cusack as music-obsessed Rob Gordon, ‘High Fidelity’ is an exploration of relationship failures and shortcomings. Gordon is far from your usual romantic hero, and in each of his visits to ex-girlfriends in order to understand his lack of success with women, we see that he is undeniably flawed. But what’s great about this film is its honesty. Yes, Gordon splits from his girlfriend at the beginning of the film, yes they get back together later and experience trust issues. But they work together to get over those issues, and by the end of the film are expressing pure, unadulterated love for each other. It’s a movie that testifies the undeniable truth about love- that it isn’t perfect and we can’t expect continual fairytale scenarios. And it makes us feel a bit better about our own cockups in the relationship department, which is never a bad thing.
Let the Right One In
This is Swedish romance horror at its finest. Based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, ‘Let the Right One In’ tells the story of 12 years old boy Oskar, who forms an unlikely friendship with pale little girl Eli who moves into the apartment next door. As the story progresses, the two start falling in love, sending each other Morse code messages by tapping on their adjoining wall. We also learn that Eli is a centuries-old vampire and has to kill people and drink their blood in order to survive. At first, Oskar is unsettled, but he seems to get over it pretty quickly. The film ends with Eli decapitating all of Oskar’s sadistic bullies, and the two then escape on a train, with Eli hidden in a box to protect herself from the sunlight. She taps the word ‘kiss’ on the inside of the box in Morse code, to which Oskar replies with ‘puss’, meaning ‘small kiss’ in Swedish. Come on, that’s pretty damned adorable.
Harold and Maude
Hal Ashby’s cult classic combines romance and dark comedy in the most surprisingly charming way. Maude is a 79 year-old woman, who ends up teaching young man Harold how to live and love to the fullest. It sounds gross but it’s actually sweet as hell and has a really profound message. Harold is initially obsessed with death; the start of the film sees him driving around in a hearse, crashing funerals, and staging elaborate fake suicides. But after meeting free-spirited Maude at one of these stranger’s funerals, his life is turned completely upside down, and he starts taking joy in things like music, art, and dancing. Maude’s mantra of ‘try something new every day’ is certainly sage advice, and really it is no wonder the two end up falling in love. Although the ending isn’t all smiles and rainbows, we see Harold finally cured of his morbidity; he is finally free to live his life as fully and happily as possible, thanks to his relationship with Maude.