Film critic James Drew stocks up on hankies and reviews six classic romantic movies.
Well, it’s that time of year again (funny, isn’t it, how it’s always that time of year, for something or other?) – it’s time to pay due tribute to the loved one who’s already sharing your life, or to acquire a new paramour for St. Valentine’s Day.
And this year, why not let the crowds fight over the available tables, choose to stay in and cuddle up, treat yourselves to a good bottle of bubbly and settle down with one or more of the following six films which, for this critic, simply define love on the big screen?
You’ll probably be able to predict a few of my choices, but I think that there will be one or two surprises, and they are all so worth yours and your beloved’s time. So, counting down from sixth to first place, we’re rolling…
4. What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
Before he unfortunately ruined a good portion of his career with mega-flop At Long Last Love (1975), Peter Bogdanovich proved his mastery of the screwball comedy with this, which remains one of the funniest films ever to emerge from mainstream Hollywood and, with the sassy, sexy and ultimately very romantic pairing of Barbara Streisand and Ryan O’Neal at its core, it’s priceless.
Judy (Streisand): Love means never having to say you’re sorry.
Howard (O’Neal): That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.
5. Truly Madly Deeply (1991)
To mark the very sad passing of Alan Rickman – Juliet Stevenson is inconsolable with grief at the passing of her partner Jamie (Rickman), but then he returns to earth as a ghost. Anthony Mingella, to be fair, directs with much flair and warmth, and it is difficult to keep the eyes dry in more than a few places.
Nina (Stevenson): I can’t believe I have a bunch of dead people watching videos in my living room.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Written by Charlie Kaufman (who else?), Michel Gondry’s film is one of the most intriguing, unsettling and ultimately joyous takes on what it might mean to truly lose your love from your life – not through death but, when the loving relationship of Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslett) turns sour, by attempting to ‘erase’ each other from their respective memories, using an innovative new process invented by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Kruczynski goes first, then Barish follows suit, taking us with him but, once he is inside the process, he realizes that he really doesn’t want to lose his love. Trouble is, he’s running out of places in his mind to hide her…
The title comes from Alexander Pope: “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d?” – be very careful what you wish for. Sublime performances, particularly from Carrey, with an ending that will have you hugging your nearest and dearest hard.
Joel (Carrey): [voice over] Random thoughts for Valentine’s Day, 2004. Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.
Brief Encounter (1945)
Totally transcending its terribly, terribly prim set-up, David Lean’s romantic masterpiece is still one of the most moving accounts of frustrated love some 70 years on from its first release. Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are the star-crossed would-be lovers whose paths cross in a railway station café, and from then on it’s a wonderful, whimsical will-they-won’t-they journey. Best bit? Howard’s last touch on Johnson’s shoulder as he is leaving her for the last time…
Dr. Alec Harvey (Howard): I love you. I love your wide eyes, the way you smile, your shyness, and the way you laugh at my jokes.
Laura Jesson (Johnson): [whimpers] Please don’t.
2. The Lives of Others (2006)
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film has been categorized as a thriller, but for yours truly it is also one of the most affecting, tragically beautiful accounts of love, and the price that you may have to pay to hold on to it. The sadly departed Ulrich Mühe plays agent of the secret police (Stasi) Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler in 1984 East Germany. He becomes more and more involved in the lives of an author and his wife, who love each other very much but who know that their existence is more than a little precarious, given the anti-state nature of the man’s writing. A happy ending it doesn’t have, but there is redemption in spades.
Minister Bruno Hempf: Take a look behind your light switches. We knew everything. We even knew that you weren’t man enough to satisfy our little Christa.
Georg Dreyman: [contemptuously] To think that people like you ruled a country.
And the winner is…
1. Casablanca (1942)
Come on, you can’t say you’re surprised at this taking the number-one place, can you? Bogart, Bergman, Henreid and Rains in what is simply the most sublime romantic film ever committed to film, and which will simply never be surpassed. ‘You must remember this…’ – Happy Valentine’s Day!
Rick (Humphrey Bogart): Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.