Let’s face it: there’s nothing romantic about movie theatres. Crowded rows, sticky floors…it’s not exactly an atmosphere that screams amour.
That being said, films still make for the quintessential date night. So this Valentine’s Day, instead of getting bundled and heading to the cinema, why not get cozy with your special someone (a little hygge never hurts), forgo the mainstream rom-com, and reach for an unexpected choice that can be enjoyed from the comforts of home?
The following films range from award-winning dramas to cult classics, from riveting indie flicks to one strange vampire thriller. Each is bound to impressive your cinephile partner, so read on for February 14th’s featured presentations.
This sweeping wartime drama, based on the bestselling novel by Ian McEwan, is perfect for history buffs, lovers of good period costuming, and those who prefer a gritty dose of reality with their sentimental romantic fare. Featuring a breakout performance by Saoirse Ronan, for which she earned an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress (she was one of the youngest women in history to receive the honour), the film tells the story of two unrequited lovers tangled in a botched police investigation and the chaos of WWII. Told from the perspective of one lover’s little sister, the story examines the blurred line of fantasy and reality, and the complex issue of atoning for childhood transgressions.
The Hunger (1983)
David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon make for one electric trio. This is a perfect Valentine’s Day option for those who like their romance with a side of vampires and erotica. Catherine Deneuve plays an enigmatic vampire who has given her lover (Bowie) eternal life — but not eternal youth. When he seeks the help of a doctor (Sarandon) who specializes in rapid aging in primates, the plot thickens with a steamy affair between the two women. An oddball choice that will leave your blood…well, pumping.
This Australian romantic drama is another book-to-big-screen adaptation, this time based on Luke Davies’ novel Candy: A Novel Of Love And Addiction. This one is a little bittersweet — the lead actor is the late Heath Ledger, and the story is a sex-fuelled, drug-filled romp through a metaphorical Hell, Heaven, and Earth. (In reality, Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription medication.) The result is a turbulent, erotic journey through the stages of addiction and relationships.
The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
This Belgian drama, based on the play by Johan Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels, enjoyed international acclaim with a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the 86th Academy Awards. Set in Ghent (the Flemish region of Belgium), the story follows a couple brought together by a shared passion for bluegrass music; over the course of seven years, they fall in love and have a daughter, whose tragic death changes their lives—and relationship—forever.
This is one of those quintessential party films: love, sex, music, and a constant flow of cocaine are the fixtures of this American offering from director Hunter Richards. When Syd (Chris Evans) discovers that his ex-girlfriend (Jessica Biel) is moving to California with her new boyfriend, he crashes the going-away party and grapples with the love he still feels for her and the anger he carries over her past cheating. The result is a mesmerizing film that largely takes place in a bathroom at the party, where Syd and his friend Bateman spiral in a coke- and tequila-fuelled philosophical discussion on faith, women, pain, sex, and love.
This quiet period film is set against the stifling backdrop of 1950s New York. A budding photographer named Therese (Rooney Mara) works at a department store, where she meets an older woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett). When Carol leaves her gloves at the counter, Therese finds her address on a sale slip and returns them by mail. Carol meets with Therese to thank her, and thus begins a steamy, forbidden affair in the midst of Carol’s impending divorce and custody battle. This film features master performances by both Blanchett and Mara, and it’s one of those painfully moving stories about love’s triumphs in the face of social and legal adversity.
This romantic comedy-drama (dare we call it a dramedy?) is based on the true story of writer/director Mike Mills’ father, who came out at the age of seventy-five. Starring Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent as lovers grappling with their father/child relationships as well as their relationship with each other, and the legendary Christopher Plummer as an elderly man who finally chooses to live in sexual freedom, this film is a sweet, honest, and funny look at the search for love and honesty at all stages of life. And for the dog lovers out there, the pup in this film plays a significant role — and boy, does he have opinions.
Blue Valentine (2010)
The moment you see the powerhouses that are Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams together onscreen, you know that Blue Valentine is going to be special. This hyper-realistic film maps the courtship and marriage of Dean, a high school dropout, and Cindy, a pre-med student. When an unexpected pregnancy by Cindy’s ex-boyfriend threatens the early days of their affair, the two lovers decide to raise a family together. The years that follow are a tumultuous journey of love, jealousy, and passion. If you’re watching this with your own lover on Valentine’s Day, don’t be shy; it’s hard to watch this moving drama without shedding a few tears.
Blue Lagoon (1980)
This is the film for the couples who joke about being stranded on a desert island together. Starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, Blue Lagoon tells the story of two young cousins who survive a shipwreck somewhere in the South Pacific. The only adult left to care for them is a galley cook, who warns them about the dangers of eating a poisonous berry and venturing to the other side of the island, where he has discovered the remnants of human sacrifice. When the cook passes away, the two children are left to their own devices. Beyond the confines of societal expectations and laws, the children confusedly discover love and sexuality — and what exactly waits on the other side of the island.
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Like On The Road, Lost In America, Badlands, and countless others, Y Tu Mama Tambien is one of those perfect road trip films. This one is also a coming-of-age story; set in Mexico during a period of economic and political change, it explores the lives of two teenage boys who meet a young woman at a wedding. In an attempt to impress her, they tell her about a fictional beach called “Heaven’s Mouth.” When the woman discovers that her lover has been cheating on her, she impulsively embarks on a road trip in search of this exotic beach, along with the young boys…who have absolutely no idea where they’re going. What unfolds is a tender story of discovery and sexual awakening, with the beautiful, sweeping coasts of Mexico as its backdrop. This one is probably going to make you want to travel.