There is Romantic Comedy and there is Romance.
Rom Coms: usually two popular stars in a formulaic plot. (Mindy Kaling wrote a hilarious piece in the New Yorker about rom com stereotypes called Flick Chicks.)
Nonetheless, I do enjoy a good, fun rom com. They’re perfect for watching on planes and when I want something untaxing. Yes, they are no more than mythical fairytales, but I don’t see grown men apologising for watching superhero movies.
Romance: at least one person will die at the end. Usually.
I’ve chosen these films not by genre but on the basis of the chemistry onscreen and – of course – by how good the films are.
The English Patient
Michael Ondaatje’s book impressed me, but Anthony Minghella’s film adaptation moved me. The WWII period is the setting for two love stories. The sweet unfolding one between Naveen Andrews and Juliet Binoche meeting just after the end of the war in Tuscany. And the other between Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott Thomas in the North African desert told in flashbacks. Possibly my all-time favourite film.
Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight
Lovely, insightful and moving trilogy told in real time, nine years apart, of two lovers, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, through different stages of their lives. Because I’m a sap, I love Before Sunset the most.
Out of Sight
A sexy comedy thriller with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez set in Miami, where you can feel the palpable chemistry between the two leads, even when they’re stuck in the trunk of a car. The plots whizzes like in a pinball machine. Love the witty one-liners thrown in by the supporting cast too, including Michael Keaton and Catherine Keener.
Lars and the Real Girl
The fact that Ryan Gosling can be matched with anyone – including a plastic doll – and make it convincing shows that, frankly, he can do anything.
Something’s Gotta Give
And not just because it has Keanu in it. Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson work it out in Nancy Meyers’s film about loving with an open heart.
Side note: I saw Keaton in Marvin’s Room (released in 1996) and in this (released 2003) and there’s no doubt that she gets better with age. Likewise, Meryl Streep (also in Marvin’s Room), who seems to get even more luminous and breathtaking as she gets older.
A Place in the Sun
Liz! Monty! Explosive screen chemistry. Montgomery Clift, with brooding perfection, plays a struggling man who falls for Elizabeth Taylor’s society belle in a film directed by George Stevens.
- Brokeback Mountain Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ang Lee’s haunting film.
- Sex & Lucía Not for the faint-hearted; a (very) sexually explicit Spanish film about passion, obsession and redemption.
- The Adjustment Bureau Sci-fi thrillers are not usually my thing, but this (based on a Philip K Dick short story) was raised by the intense chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
- Anything with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall together: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage and Key Largo.
- Once Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová make beautiful music together.
- The Way We Were Hubble & Katie! Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford shine.
- Brief Encounter David Lean’s classic love story still catches at the throat every time.
- Given the number of films that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made together and how mesmerising they found each other in real life, it’s hard to recommend any of them (Cleopatra, The VIPs, The Sandpiper, The Taming of the Shrew, Doctor Faustus, Boom! and The Comedians) except Mike Nichols’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? where Liz and Dick are exceptionally brilliant at playing a couple who hate each other.
- Mrs Brown The ever-watchable Judi Dench and Billy Connelly in a film directed by John Madden.
- Take This Waltz I loved Sarah Polley’s film with Michelle Williams.
- Secretary Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader bond over S&M in this touching indie film.
• Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons