I’m a sucker for romantic movies – they never fail to make me smile or give me a little boost. But I’ve found that the ones that really made an impact on me are the ones so raw and honest about life, ones that don’t always necessarily have a happy beginning, middle, or ending. Romantic movies give us so many expectations and fantasies. They almost dictate the way love should be, but it’s so one-sided. We hardly see the many other realities of love.
So here’s a list of some of the honest-to-God movies that spoke to me on many levels.
500 Days of Summer
This one’s a favorite, and for many other people too. You’ve got your cute, quirky characters Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Boy meets girl and he falls head over heels for her. Here’s the thing though: Summer doesn’t believe in love, doesn’t want a relationship, and doesn’t want to “belong to anyone”, but the attraction is palpable so they end up getting together anyway. Tom, who is absolutely blinded by love and believes Summer is “the one” doesn’t see that things aren’t what they appear to be and eventually becomes distraught by Summer’s aloof uncommital behavior. It’s clear that things aren’t going to work out and Summer breaks it off.
The biggest lesson I got out of that movie is not to hold your person to different expectations than what they’ve already made clear they can bring to the table. You can’t force a person to fit a certain role or need in your life. Your expectations and reality simply won’t align.
I mention it more in depth in a previous post, What Past Relationships Taught Me, so feel free to give that a read if you have the time.
Margo (Cara Delevingne) is in many minds, the perfect girl. Everyone idolizes her and makes her out to be some too-good-to-be-true mythical creature. Paper Towns tells the classic story of the manic pixie dream girl and eventual let down when Quentin (Nat Wolff), the boy next door who’s been in love with her his entire childhood realizes she is simply just a girl, one with weaknesses and flaws. The movie destroys the idea that such a perfect, unrealistic person exists.
In an interview with John Green, he says Quentin’s mistake was:
“By thinking she was this, like, superhuman angel who existed to be an object that he would win in a quest, and that’s just not what people are. People are not miracles, and they’re not objects to win. They’re people.”
That was my main takeaway from the movie. The moral of the story is similar to the one from 500 Days of Summer – except instead of creating unrealistic expectations about the situation, this movie is about creating unrealistic expectations of a person. It’s not healthy to put people on a pedestal and idolize them as perfect beings. Humans are complex, imperfect, and believing otherwise does a disservice to them and yourself.
This is a story of soulmates who have to suffer through the test of long-distance. Anna (Felicity Jones), a British exchange student falls for Jacob (Anton Yelchin), an American while she is studying in LA. They quickly become entangled in each others lives, absolutely in love with each other. Anna’s student visa expires upon graduation, meaning she has to leave the United States, but she’s so in love with Jacob that she decides to violate the agreement and spend the rest of the summer with him anyway.
Because of this, she is denied re-entry into the United States later on by immigration officials. They spend the remainder of their relationship in an on-again, off-again situation. Their relationship gets more strained as they attempt to work through the distance while beginning their lives as young working adults. They even entertain the idea of seeing new people, causing jealousy and frustration. In the end, they get married so Anna can return to the US. In the final scene, they’re staring off in the distance reminiscing on their best times together, but after many trials and tribulations, their love doesn’t feel the same anymore. That ending scene killed me – hit me right in the feels. If you don’t watch the movie, at least watch the last two minutes.
This movie captures first love and how couples desperately try to keep it in their grasp even when life seems to leave them going in different directions. The juxtaposition of young love and becoming an adult is what makes this story so realistic and sad.
My point: Love can have growing pains, and you have to accept that sometimes you just grow in separate directions. The saddest part of growing up is realizing that sometimes people in your past don’t have a place in your future.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Joel (Jim Carrey) discovers that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has undergone a cutting-edge procedure that wiped all memory of him after they had a big fight. He feels miserable and decides to do the same. Eternal Sunshine is a trippy psychological film that poses the question “Are we truly happier if we just forget about the bad memories and erase the pain away?” The answer is no.
As we delve into his subconscious and witness their relationship from start to finish, Joel realizes he cherishes their time together and their love for one another, rather than resenting the bad moments. He immediately regrets erasing her from his life.
Love and growth require the good and the bad. Every relationship can teach us something, and it’s the hard times that help us evolve. You can’t just forget past experiences – good and bad – because it’s what forms our sense of self.
Have you seen any of these movies? And what would be your personal picks?