7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

The Notebook1 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

With Valentine’s Day comes every movie websites lists of Best Movies About Love, Most Romantic Movies Ever, Best Movies To Watch On Valentine’s, and then of course the accompanying lists to balance all this out, like Best Movies For Singles On Valentine’s Day and the like. Mostly though, we get to read and hear about the same movies year after year.

And it’s sweet, and these movies are fun enough and awaken certain emotions that are expressed in a healthy way so long as we recognize the artifice of the thing that’s arousing them. And sometimes we’ll get a few movies earning mention that are legitimately and wholly lovely and romantic and heartwarming.

But there are some movies that garner this label of “romantic” when if you think about them after the warm feelings wear off, they’re kind of really depressing. It’s not just for their promotion of co-dependency, or their unrealistic portrayals of love and romance that could potentially lead to hopeless expectations for people in their real lives, although these are genuine sources of skepticism towards romantic movies. No, it’s usually because the stories themselves are a little disconcerting, sometimes downright offensive and romanticizing abuse or other unhealthy actions toward purported loved ones.

A lot of this is in jest, with full realization of the surface intentions of these movies, which are sweet and ultimately harmless in all honesty. But I’m still going to go through with a brief list of rants. Here are 7 movies that may have seemed romantic at first but, upon further reflection, are actually real downers.

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1) The Notebook

The Notebook 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

Let’s start with one nearly unanimous pick for The Most Romantic Movie Of All Time™, The Notebook. Here we have a story of two elderly folks in a nursing home, a man reading from his notebook to a lady friend. It’s a lovely tale of a romantic summer, which plays out before our eyes, in which a bumpkin steals away a poor little rich girl. But of course her parents forbid her from seeing him and they’re separated and she takes up with some new guy even though bumpkin guy is all like “I wrote-cha ever’ day fer a yeer!” but her mom keeps the letters from her so she thinks he’s full of it.

But then they reunite and new guy gives her an ultimatum and obviously she picks bumpkin because she wants to get in on the Ryan Gosling train before everyone else wants a piece like they do now. Meanwhile, the old man in the nursing home is reading this to the old lady and she remembers that this is their story and she is cured of her dementia for a moment but then it comes back and she’s unresponsive again, so there’s nothing left to do but die in each other’s arms.

This doesn’t seem a little crazy to anyone else? Yes it’s sweet, and my keyboard is currently short-circuiting from my spontaneous weeping but is this really the pinnacle of a romantic relationship? That you die in each other’s arms? Or rather, that one of you dies, and the other commits suicide via heartbreak? This old man surely could have had some productive years left in him. He could have made his way around the nursing home and gotten with some reasonably doable ladies. He could have perhaps written his own memoirs, as these one were apparently written by his partner. Shouldn’t he get to have his say? I guess his identity is purely dependent on their relationship. So without her, he’s nothing.

To me, that doesn’t scream adorable, it points to some pretty severe dependency, and perhaps some mommy issues. Ryan Gosling in Drive is way more romantic.

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2) P.S. I Love You

PS I Love You 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

Full disclosure: I have not seen this movie. It creeps me out. Everything about it is creepy. The poster, the premise, the performers. Here’s what I know about it based on what I gathered from its promotional campaign around the time of its release, and the Wikipedia summary which I have read out of some sick curiosity several times.

It’s about this girl, whose husband dies. Drag. She’s getting on well enough until years letter she starts getting little notes from the dead husband, telling her to do things. That sounds messed up, but then his ghost notes convince her to go to Ireland, his home country, where she meets a guy who reminds her of dead husband probably because they’re both Irish, and she hooks up with him only to find out later that husband and new Irish guy were friends. She then starts designing shoes and all is well.

Maybe people who have seen the movie can correct me, but does this not all sound awful? For so many reasons? I know it sucks that she lost her husband; on the plus side, she didn’t heartbreak herself to death like in The Notebook so get busy living, girl! And what’s with the dead husband insisting on haunting her? He was apparently so possessive of her in life that he had to continue to bother her after death. Let her move on, dude. None of this sounds romantic to me, but just kind of offensive.

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3) Titanic

Titanic 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

Ok, I love Titanic, but man is it a downer. I guess that’s sort of the point. I don’t know if I necessarily see it as romantic, though, but rather more of just a lovely little story about two hot youngsters who were able to bang it out before their ship sank. Kind of like a weird version of The Sessions or The Cake Eaters in which the protagonist with a death sentence of sorts just wants to get laid before they leave this earth. For Titanic’s Jack, this is how this story turns out.

At the same time, maybe he didn’t have to die. I know, easy for us to say from our cushy seats. And I’m not convinced by these theories that he could have fit on the same raft as Rose—even if they could fit in terms of surface area, I haven’t seen anything that says both their weight could have been sustained. But come on man, grab something else! There’s crap floating all around you! It’s a similar issue to the one I have with Bates in Downton Abbey. I have little patience for the sad sack romantic who insists on playing the martyr. That doesn’t seem selfless to me; it seems self-aggrandizing. You know how you can show Rose you really love her? By living. Try harder, bro.

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4) Romeo and Juliet

Romeo + Juliet 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

Take your pick of which version of the story you want to focus on, the Romeo and Juliet of 1968, the Romeo + Juliet of 1996, or any incarnation before, since or in between those two staples. Some of their plots differ slightly but they’re fundamentally the same: two ridiculously young teenagers who have barely experienced life fall in lust love even though their families are enemies, Juliet fakes her own death and Romeo misses the memo so thinks she actually died so he kills himself and she learns he killed himself so she kills herself, as I’m sure anyone would do in a similar situation.

I can’t sum up all that’s wrong with this better than my Sassy Gay Friend does, but I’ll try anyway. It’s a perfectly fine story, but only if we take it as a warning about how stupid teenage emotions can be. It’s honest about how strongly pubescent boys and girls are driven by hormonal impulses, but this shouldn’t be celebrated, it should be guarded against and in the case of insanity like Romeo and Juliet, mourned. I suspect this is the intended message of Shakespeare’s original work, but in the cultural conversation around it, it’s taken just as a romantic love story, and that’s stupid.

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5) Casablanca

Casablanca 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

There’s a danger with older movies to perceive them purely as existing in their own time, forgiving them for perspectives that were prevalent in the period and couldn’t be helped by their authors. To an extent I am swayed by this position, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still judge them for their faults, even if they shouldn’t be expected to be so exceptional as to be as liberal-minded as our movies tend to be today, relatively anyway. I also think movies should be held accountable for establishing or perpetuating tropes that still plague movies and television to this day.

Which brings me to Casablanca. Billed often as the most romantic movie of all time, at least pre-2004, it is in ever-so-classy black and white and so has a certain quaintness to it, a term I use in the most condescending manner possible. It comes from an era in which manliness amounted to being so guarded against showing any feeling that you literally held your feelings inside no matter what prompts you may face, such as the love of your life leaving you behind. This isn’t The Notebook where the girl ends up with the protagonist. This is Casablanca, where he watches her fly away on a plane with her douchey (probably) husband because of, again, this manly sense of martyrdom, a tough guy identity that chooses a weird kind of duty and stoicism over happiness. Whatever dude, do what you want. Just don’t bitch to me about it later over beers, please.

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6) Love Actually

Love Actually 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

I’m not going to pick a fight with Love Actually, partially because its fans are more rabid than I’d care to deal with, and partly because I like it for the most part. I like the idea of finding love in unexpected places, the sweetness of airports, hope, optimism, all that jazz. The stuff with the kid is really sweet. Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman can do no wrong. I could watch Bill Nighy dance for hours, and the surprise twist to his story was a nice touch. The ensemble structure was decently handled, the stories complementing each other reasonably enough, even though it did inspire dreck like Valentine’s Day. We’ll forgive it for giving us a Martin Freeman sex scene.

I have two minor beefs with it though, aspects that are supposed to be romantic and I find horribly unsatisfying, in different ways for different reasons. The first is the bit with Rick from The Walking Dead stealing a kiss from Keira Knightley and just being satisfied with that. Come on, man! Now that you’ve had a taste, how can you not be spurned on to go for the grand prize? By that of course I mean her hand in marriage. Ovary up, bro.

Then there’s the Colin Firth plot with the Portuguese housemaid. This is supposed to be cutesy and it is, but I can’t help thinking that their impending marriage could potentially be a trainwreck since they know nothing about one another, having not spoken a comprehensible word to each other by the time he proposes. What if they’re not actually compatible, sexually or otherwise? Take the time to learn this stuff before rushing into things. It’s just good sense.

Other than that, good show, chaps.

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7) Twilight

Twilight 7 Movies People Find Romantic But Are Actually Depressing

This isn’t a popular opinion in most circles, but I don’t hate the Twilight series like most people I know do. First of all, I think Kristen Stewart, based on her other work obviously, is a genuine talent and is going to do amazing De Niro-like work in the future, and I don’t care what you might think about that because it’s just a fact. She makes Twilight more interesting than it deserves to be. Second, the story is campy and dumb, but there is genuine emotional expression behind the stiffness of the acting, and real excitement and well-crafted sequences, especially in the concluding movie.

Having said that, the fact that most of Bella’s identity is developed through her romantic engagement with Edward is not what we expect from our heroines anymore. And there’s opportunity for focusing less on the love story and more on Bella’s transformation into adulthood and becoming a woman who can lead the Cullen charge against the tyrannical vampire council guys. The later movies try to do this, and that’s a credit to them. But too much of it is occupied with the pale romance, not nearly as satisfying as a girl’s coming of age would be. We’re starting to see the girl’s story catching up to the boy’s coming of age story lately. Twilight could have been better if it aligned with this angle a bit more. Bella can stand on her own without Eyebrows McWhiteface.

Please, share your thoughts on these or other romantic movies in the comments section below, but as Calvin Candie would insist, let’s “keep it funny.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1137696372 Lori Lamb

    PS I LOVE YOU… The letters actually start in weeks, not years. And she is romanced in flash backs by her husband, then yes later her husband’s friend and also her mother’s employee (Kathy Bates/Harry Connick Jr.). So she see a lot of action. Oddly, I hate ghost movies, but this one is realistic (well, sort of) and not half bad.

  • Comiccow

    No. No Twilight. It is depressing that it was made. It poisons the mind of girls. The girls in my class are total sluts. So yeah, no thanks for it being good.

  • ThisIsMe

    Ohhh I sees. Romantic and depressing are mutually exclusive, are they? A movie couldn’t possibly be *both.*

    Also, do you people even fact check when you write about films?

  • MikeLrgo

    Atonement should be on the list. I’m sure quite a few people thought it was a purely romantic film. While it is, the ending was shocking and heartbreaking, especially when one character finally tells the interviewer why he/she is planning to retire.

  • http://twitter.com/DancerChick1982 Allison Venezio

    I got through 17 minutes of Love Actually. Honestly. I had no clue what was going on, and was bored to the point of insanity by that point, so I stopped watching it. I worked in a video store at the time, and apparently, I was the only one who gave it that much of a chance, my other female co-workers didn’t make it that far. I like Rom Coms and Romantic Movies, but surprisingly, I have never seen any of the movies on this list, aside from Titantic and Romeo + Juliet, probably because they all looked depressing at the time they were released (Casablanca came out 40 years before I was born, so obviously I wasn’t around for it), and quite frankly, sedatives are the only way I’ll watch Twilight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ariana.ruelas Ariana Ruelas

    Haha on P.S. I love you it’s not a “ghost-husband” who writes her letters. He was really sick and he knew he was about to die so he prepared letters for when he was not around anymore as a birthday gift. So WHEN HE’S ALIVE he asks her family and friends to prepare the surprise for her, but he wrote all the notes before death as a final goodbye because he knew they were so in love that she would be really depressed and he wanted her to move on with her life after he was gone. He buys tickets for Ireland so she could meet his parents because she hadn’t met them before. He only appears in the beginning of the movie and on flashbacks, but never as a ghost or something like that. Although I didn’t like that she stays with her dead husband’s friend, it’s kinda weird.

    • someone132

      So her husband actually did write the letters? I thought that it was his friend all along, taking advantage of the situation. Tbh, I still think that would have been a pretty interesting twist.

  • Lyra

    I don’t think that Shakespeare’s message in Romeo and Juliet was “teenage emotions are stupid”, but more something like “this is what true love does to you.”
    I mean, you need to have experienced it before you can actually understand the concept.

  • Gothic Guido

    “is a genuine talent and is going to do amazing De Niro-like work in the future”. (Its a fact) Then again you apparently liked twilight. I’m sorry if I sound mean, but taxi driver is my favorite movie, it means so much to me. For you to say “lip bitter” will do something on the same level as him is ignorant to art and history of cinema (I’m sorry if I sound like a douchebag)

  • Yuyun Firdausi

    yahhhh….that’s what I think on the very first time seen this scene

  • Maria Paramythatzou

    Let’s see. Movies are the equivalent of a cap of tea and everybody likes it differently.

    For instance I don’t see the point of romance when it’s mixed with death. The Notebook bored me because I didn’t like the characters. P.S I love you was a sad memory because he is dead, yes you remember your husband who loved you but you have to get on with life and eventually move on (with another partner when you are ready).

    Titanic. I watched it only for a film course. The guy is dead in the movie, their love could not unfold why keep prolonging the pain?

    I never got to seeing Romeo and Juliet, they die anyway, what’s the point. Romance is meant to be hopeful and live on…

    Love actually. It is a love film, pretty realistic. As the title says, Love Actually.

    Then we have Twilight. Were it not for the media
    attention it got and its terrible money hungry sequels, it would have been a
    lovely story. They get together in the end, happily ever after. The sequels dragged it unnecessarily too long and killed its spirit.

  • Ally

    I can’t believe Cold Mountain isn’t on this list. It is the most romantic movie I’ve ever seen, yet the most depressing movie ever. I cry every time I watch it (don’t know why I keep watching it – maybe I think the ending will magically change).

  • Ally

    I can’t believe Cold Mountain isn’t on this list. It is the most romantic movie I’ve ever seen, yet the most depressing movie ever. I cry every time I watch it (don’t know why I keep watching it – maybe I think the ending will magically change).