AdamBefore Rose Byrne was a bridesmaid and Hugh Dancy was making us all uneasy as Will Graham on Hannibal, the two actors starred in this little-seen romantic drama. Dancy plays the title character, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome craving a more personal connection. He finds camaraderie with his new neighbor, Beth (Byrne).
The film could have become too maudlin, but much of Adam is thoughtful and nuanced. In fact, it was widely praised as one of the more empathetic and accurate depictions of autism on the big screen. Byrne and Dancy are both terrific as well.
You likely missed it when it was in theatres in the summer of 2009, but Adam is a tender little romantic gem that’s definitely worth searching for.
Before SunriseRichard Linklater’s first of three (and maybe more) collaborations with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke is also one of the lowest-grossing films to ever spawn a sequel. It doesn’t take long to figure out why it did though.
Confident and casual, this lovely journey with Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) as they stroll through Vienna and fall in love is both deep and relaxed. Their conversations are engaging, never feeling long-winded despite their length, and the excellent performances, sparkling European locale, and Linklater and Kim Krizian’s dialogue ensured that audiences would want to see these two wanderers reconcile in Before Sunset (arguably the best film in the trilogy).
Audiences that crave great chemistry and emotional detail should see (or revisit) this remarkable drama.
Blue Is The Warmest ColorMany romantic films focus on the high and lows of a relationship, but few have done so with as much splendor and sensitivity as this Palme d’Or winner.
In the film, Adèle Exarchopoulos gives an extraordinary turn as Adèle, a teenage girl who desires a handsome young woman, Emma (Léa Seydoux). The three-hour, NC-17 flick drew a lot of buzz for its explicit sexual content, but it resonates due to the emotional texturing of both characters. With the time to delve into the minutiae of the young women’s lives and their love affair, director Abdellatif Kechiche explores the characters’ complex feelings with a depth rarely seen in the cinema. The film is certianly long, but it does not feel bloated one bit.
Celeste and Jesse ForeverRashida Jones anchors this small film that was a Sundance sensation but didn’t find a big audience. She also co-wrote the sharp screenplay with Will McCormack, about a separated couple trying to remain friends despite their time apart.
Jones is the titular Celeste, while Andy Samberg is a terrific fit for Jesse, showing more dramatic range than he does on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The romantic comedy has a casual pace attuned to the rhythms of thirty-something life and is an effortlessly entertaining film that doesn’t fall back on genre conventions. The characters are authentic and original, and a game supporting cast, including Chris Messina and Ari Graynor, gives spirited turns.
Celeste and Jesse Forever was mostly ignored in theatres when it released, yet is certainly worth watching on DVD.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindThe awkward meet-cute on public transit. Escapades onto frozen lakes and abandoned houses on the beach. Themes of guilt, longing and regret. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has quite a lot in common with the works of Nicholas Sparks, yet its quality is exponentially higher than those tearjerker adaptations.
Jim Carrey stars as Joel, a morose man trying to find happiness after breaking up with the effervescent Clementine (Kate Winslet). He decides to undergo an operation to have all memories of their relationship removed – but finds it hard to shake this love away.
Charlie Kaufman’s Oscar-winning script is audacious and accomplished, while Michel Gondry’s dreamy vision is filled with endless surprise. Plus, Winslet has never been better. Simply put, this is a hard film to erase from your viewing memory.
Laurence AnywaysFrench-Canadian writer/director Xavier Dolan is one of the brightest young filmmakers working right now, and this ambitious romantic drama from 2012 is proof of that.
Dolan’s near three-hour film is about a tumultuous relationship between Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) and Fred (Suzanne Clément). These old friends and lovers divide when Laurence decides to identify as a woman and the drama tracks the various changes in this relationship over the course of a decade.
Winner of the Queer Palm at Cannes, Laurence Anyways is one of the most stunning portrayals of a transgender character in recent history. Filled with the same feeling and freewheeling energy as Dolan’s other melodramas, it is a masterful film.
OnceOnce is some sort of miracle, a rhapsody of love, music and creativity that inspired a Broadway musical and won an Oscar – on just a budget of $150,000.
John Carney’s Dublin-set romance follows the partnership of a busker and vacuum repairman (Glen Hansard) and an aspiring musician (Markéta Irglová). The two meet, play some music together and slowly begin to fall for each other.
Carney’s film has a modest, handheld feel yet every moment feels rich and buoyant. There is more emotional purity to the central relationship, and more meaning derived from the acoustic songs sung throughout, than in almost any lavish musical extravaganza ever made. Few titles in recent memory have charmed so effortlessly.
The Spectacular NowAs young actors go, few have earned as much worthwhile praise in recent years as Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. They anchored two of 2014’s most talked-about films, Whiplash and The Fault in Our Stars, but before that they created a sublime chemistry in The Spectacular Now, from director James Ponsoldt.
There’s an energy and earnestness in this indie romance that few teen movies achieve. The film focuses on the bookish Aimee (Woodley) and the hard-drinking Sutter (Teller) and the various strains in their lives as high-school seniors. The screenplay, from 500 Days of Summer’s Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, avoids typical characterization and instead embraces the ugly truths and fears of growing up and keeping a relationship strong, making it a unique film and one that should delight anyone who gives it a chance.
What If (a.k.a. The F Word)A lack of studio confidence and a bland title sank What If during its momentary stay in theaters last August. (Elsewhere in the world, the film is called The F Word, a much more potent moniker.)
This Canadian romcom with Daniel Radcliffe as a med school dropout in love with a girl (Zoe Kazan) in a long-term relationship deserved more exposure and love. The former Harry Potter star proves a charming romantic lead, and one of the best young supporting casts in ages – Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis and Rafe Spall round it out – get to chew on Elan Mastai’s rich dialogue. While the film unfortunately ends on a mawkish note, the first two thirds are funny and frequently refreshing.