Valentine’s Day brings with it a typical trotting out of those same romantic movies that many people love, which all adhere to a formula so specific that it was employed recently in a film simply called Valentine’s Day. While there are plenty of films that treat romance with some skill and grace, the majority of them stick to the rule of poorly portrayed women, impossibly charming men, and serendipitous circumstances that often feel false even to the biggest romance enthusiasts. And that’s all fine enough. Studios get paid and can stay afloat by knocking down some easy targets, those of us made vulnerable by the sentimentality of the season.
There are other movies that don’t come out around Valentine’s Day but maybe they should. I guess their biggest problem is that they’re usually good enough to be released in the summer or else late in the year during awards season. It’s possible they’re not actually good I guess, and just appeal to the pessimistic impulse in all of us. The way to test this would be to release them around Valentine’s and see how they play. I’m talking about the really cynical movies, the ones that instead of showing how fun and playful and cutesy romance can be, points to the fact that romance is illusory, like all things is impermanent and has an ending point, which is usually messy and/or devastating.
It’s almost a yin and yang relationship—the joy of romance can’t exist without the sorrow of loss, and so maybe these types of pessimistic movies are necessary to make us truly appreciate the optimistic ones. Louis CK has a bit about how every relationship ultimately is depressing: best case scenario is that you spend your lives together, and then they die, leaving you alone. The best we have to hope for is losing our best friend. What a prospect! Here are 6 movies to provide a cynical balance to the happy romance movies celebrated in this lovely Valentine’s season.
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