If you’re dateless on Valentine’s Day, then avoiding ‘The Notebook’ is a wise move. In fact, you’ll probably want to avoid all romantic movies and stick to a gun-toting Ripley or the new ‘Last of Us’ DLC instead.
However, if you find yourself in front a TV on Friday – whether single, accompanied by a fellow ice cream-wielding singleton or perhaps even a date (!) – then you could do worse than try out one of the following celluloid love stories which are by turns romantic, funny and cynical where it counts. FU, ‘The Notebook’.
Following the release of last year’s third chapter, Richard Linklater’s ‘Before…’ triptych (‘Sunrise’, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Midnight’) is potentially modern cinema’s most enduring love story and one not afraid to shy away from the effects the passing of time has on even the greatest love affair. If you can’t face the more downbeat tone of the most recent entry, then stick to Jesse and Celine’s first two dalliances in Vienna and Paris.
Alternatively, meatballs for one and a viewing of ‘Lady & the Tramp’ may be in order if you can’t deal with human love stories. Who can be cynical when it’s puppy love??
For said cynics, the likes of ‘(500) Days of Summer’ and ‘This is 40’ will help burst the card-company bubble perpetuated by V Day. First of all, witness young love turn sour even for pretties like JGL and Zooey Deschanel in 2009’s clever relationship document, then zip forward to 40 when young love is a distant memory for Judd Apatow’s disillusioned not-newlyweds. It’s nice when Hollywood is honest with us, right?
If the black-and-white classics are a no-go area for you on Valentine’s (even the bittersweet ‘Brief Encounter’) then a monochrome Shakespeare interpretation from Joss Whedon should still appeal. Zippy as you would expect, the ‘Buffy’ mastermind’s take on ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is low-budget but highly engaging, a lot of the credit going to Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof whose verbal sparring is sexier than anything in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Make it a Bard double bill with Baz Luhrmann’s gloriously gaudy ’90s MTV update of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – after all, if baby-faced Leo and Claire’s efforts to make it work end in a bloody mess, then we’re all doomed.
One of the best Valentine’s movies of recent years is set entirely on New Year’s Eve (and nope, it’s not ‘News Year’s Eve’ obv); ‘In Search of a Midnight Kiss’ is a frank, funny and frills-free romp through LA on 31st December which brings together two strangers for a life-altering encounter. A similarly low-key meeting that develops into something more is documented in ‘Weekend’, which gives the usual setup both a Brit twist and gay twist for a naturalistic love story that shows romantic beginnings, whatever your gender, can take you by surprise – hi there, hope!
If tomorrow’s UK release of ‘Her’ (a must-see, surely?) has got you searching for love with a sci-fi twist, then Emma Caulfield’s high-concept ‘Timer’ is a little-seen gem alongside the melon-twisting masterpiece that is Michel Gondry’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. If you’re begrudgingly single, then 2012’s ‘Ruby Sparks’ can be viewed as a cautionary tale for anyone who imagines the perfect partner and has access to a magic pen.
Unconventional couples aren’t hard to come by in offbeat indies including ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ and ‘Lars and the Real Girl’, which both pitch socially-awkward loners front and centre (and, in the latter’s case, sees Ryan Gosling’s loner get together with a life-size doll). If you like your outsiders even further on the fringes, then the twisted love story at the centre of David Lynch’s ‘Wild at Heart’ is a dark and stormy antidote to chocolates and flowers or the lack thereof.
If all else fails? Remember when that Harry guy met Sally?? Celluloid comfort food right there…