Are you sick and tired of the same overly optimistic romantic movies every Valentine’s Day? You don’t have to tell us how great it is to eat chocolate and watch The Quiet Man or Return to Me, but sometimes we’re just in the mood for the road less traveled. We try not to limit ourselves to the undisputed classics, and we don’t think you should either.
That’s why we’ve curated this list of the films you’ll need for your very own alternative Valentine’s Day marathon. These films might not be romantic in the traditional sense, but we think they’re a fresh perspective on the romance genre.
Hal Hartley is one of the most important American independent directors of the 1990s, and Trust may be his best work. With his second feature, he examines the troubled relationship between two maladjusted youths. Maria (Adrienne Shelly) and Matthew (Martin Donovan) find each other during particularly turbulent times in their lives and begin an unusual romance built on their sense of mutual identification and trust, while their families try to bring an end to their fragile and largely conceptual relationship.
Trust is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Baby, It’s You (1983)
For the next viewing in your alternative Valentine’s Day marathon, we recommend a film from another one of the American independent greats, John Sayles. The tagline says it all: “There’s the first one. There’s the right one. And there’s the one you never forget.” The beauty of Baby, It’s You is its depiction of the more realistic moments in a fantasy relationship often captured by Hollywood, in which the wealthy “good girl” dates the bad boy greaser. It’s the type of romance that could only occur in high school. They both electrify each other’s lives, even though they know deep down inside that it can’t go on forever. The amount of compassion Sayles shows to both of these characters through the ups and downs of their romance makes it perfectly endearing.
Baby, It’s You is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Love Exposure (2008)
At a running time of 237 minutes, Sion Sono’s epic doesn’t shy away from fully delving into many topics including love, coming of age, religion, and psychology. In the film, a young man is willing to put himself through anything, including (but not limited to) joining a cult, to win the affections of Yoko, a fellow cult member who has no interest in him. The film touches on just as many emotional levels as it does themes, and its many hardcore fans swear that they feel every single emotion in existence while watching it.
Love Exposure is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Georges Bizet’s classic opera Carmen is the epitome of artistic sensuality, and Julia Migenes oozes allure in director Francesco Rosi’s 1984 film adaptation. The familiar melodies of the opera take on a new romantic life in this faithful rendition, which has become the essential film version.The love on display in this film is as much the director’s love of opera as it is romance in any traditional sense. The themes of characters destroying themselves in the name of love makes this a perfect addition to an alternative Valentine’s Day marathon.
Carmen is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Brotherhood (Broderskab) (2009)
This Danish film is a little more off the beaten path than the other films on the list, because it flew very much under the radar during its 2009 release. Lars and Jimmy meet while training in a Neo-Nazi group and, despite the anti-gay doctrines of their group, soon fall for each other and begin a passionate affair. This film’s power comes from its tender portrayal of pure love between two objectively hateful characters. While watching the film, you find yourself sympathizing with these two Neo-Nazis and wanting them to have a happy ending, despite their despicable beliefs; this inner conflict felt by the viewer is a completely brutal way to demonstrate the power of love. We recommend it as alternative Valentine’s Day viewing for film fans who want to be challenged.
Brotherhood is available on DVD.
February 8, 2017