There’s nothing like a good, romantic movie to curl up with on a lazy evening. I’ve always been a sucker for them. But the other day as I was driving home from the day job, thinking about some of my favorite romantic stories, it dawned on me that some of my favorite romantic movies are as far from the traditional “boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl overcome obstacle and live happily ever after” trope as you can get. In fact, some of my favorite romantic films are downright tragic!
So I decided to put together a short list of my top five non-traditionally romantic movies. Here they are in no particular order….
Life is Beautiful
“Buon journo, Principessa!” Possibly the most romantic and comic term of endearment ever uttered on the big screen. Not gonna lie, the first time I saw this fantastic movie, Roberto Benigni’s classic, I went around spouting this line at everyone. What makes Life is Beautiful so wonderful is the pure exuberance of Benigni in every scene. He woos as no one has ever wooed before. He’s funny, charming, crazy, and ultimately irresistible. And the fact that his on screen leading lady is his real-life wife is sigh-worthy.
But at the same time, Life is Beautiful is a dark, often frightening look at the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. This funny, charming, romantic film is actually about a man fighting to protect his son from the evil around him through humor. Benigni’s character is no idiot, even though he acts like a buffoon for his son. You can see in the intensity of his expressions when his son is not looking that he knows exactly what is at stake.
And it’s still a love story. Still a love story even though the ending …. Well, if you haven’t seen this one I don’t want to give it away. Let’s just say that I sat there gaping at the screen, struggling to come to terms with it as deeper and deeper levels of love and heroism rolled across me. It was awesome! And it deserved every Oscar it won.
Somewhere in Time
I think it’s safe to give credit for my love of romance, history, time travel, Jane Seymour, and the Gibson Girl hairdo to Somewhere in Time. And it was pure fate that I saw this movie at all. I remember distinctly. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in the mid-80s. I was bored out of my mind and there were only 4 channels on our TV. One of them, the UHF channel, was showing an old movie starring Superman. It was near the beginning of the movie, an old woman was walking up to a young man after a theater performance, and I was captivated by what she had to say.
Yes, Somewhere in Time is super romantic. It’s got romantic clothes, romantic scenery, romantic music, and romantic hairdos. But it’s actually science fiction. I mean, the guy travels back in time to find a woman from a photograph! And there are all sorts of complications along the way, from over-protective managers to the stress and complications of time travel.
And does this movie have a happy ending? Again, I don’t want to leak any spoilers to anyone who hasn’t seen it, but time travel has a few risks and complications associated with it. Especially when you have a penny from 1978 in your pocket back in 1913. But man, the costumes are magnificent!
The Girl in the Café
I’ve actually already done an entire post on this one, but right here I’ll just say that I’m a sucker for painfully awkward, socially inept people actually finding each other in the dangerous and complicated sea of the modern world. And I really, really hope that things go the way I want them to go after the movie’s final scene!
A Beautiful Mind
Wait, A Beautiful Mind is a romantic movie? Absolutely! In the most non-traditional way possible. The heart of this nail-biting, heart-wrenching film based off of the life of shattered genius, John Nash, is the love story between Nash and his wife. And Russell Crowe (who we all know I love) and Jennifer Connelly have such amazing chemistry that it’s impossible not to feel for them as Nash’s nightmare unfolds.
Sure, the story of the movie isn’t quite the true story of John and Alicia Nash. In fact, if you do a little research you find out that it wasn’t exactly the “stand by your man” happily ever after story that the movie makes it out to be. But it’s a movie. Reality need not apply, nor be considered.
I have a soft spot for damaged people who just want to be loved. That’s exactly what A Beautiful Mind is all about. It’s about longing for acceptance and love. And math. Which I don’t much care for. But the human element is so powerful that I can’t help but fall in love – and weep – every time I watch this movie. It’s just that good!
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna
Of course it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put a Bollywood movie on this list. But I think you’ll find that (in spite of the way the trailer makes it out) Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye) is not quite your typical “running through the trees with eight costume changes” Hindi romance.
As the director, Karan Johar, says, this is a story about two relationships that were never meant to be … and one that was. The painful catch is that the one that was mean to be is between two people who are married to others. And it’s not like either one of them is willing to just throw away what they have to run off with the person they know they were meant to be with. Far from it. Everyone knows they have responsibilities and obligations, and everyone involved cares about the people they’re with – and the ones they’re not with.
What touches me so deeply about this movie is that it is about two good, moral people caught in the riptide of true love … after they’ve already married someone else. They’re not the sorts who would say “screw it” and run off or hop in bed with the object of their desire. It’s a deep, powerful struggle by people who just want to do the right thing. So. GOOD!
So there you have it: my choices for the best non-traditionally romantic movies. I’m sure there are others I could talk about too (like my cousin Maggie Gyllenhaal’s movie Secretary – loved it!). But I’m sure there’s some I’m missing. What are your choices for the best non-traditionally romantic movies?