‘Alternative’ Valentine’s Day Films

eternalsunshineofthespotlessmind1WHETHER you are having a quiet Valentine’s Day indoors or want to end it in a more intimate way, films are a great way of doing just that. However, for the more discerning viewer, the typical cheesy Romantic Comedy or sentimental tear-jerker – with the customary cathartic ending that involves kissing in the rain – just won’t cut it. So here is a brief list of alternative ideas for films to watch on Valentine’s Day (or any other vaguely romantic opportunity):

Eternal Sunshine for The Spotless Mind

My first film is perhaps the strangest entry on this list; Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind is an ambitious and complex film. It’s directed by Michael Gondry, written by Charlie Kaufman and stars an A-list cast, including: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, David Cross, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst. At its most basic, the plot is: Joel – a rather emotionally withdrawn man (Carrey) that tries to wipe the memory of his long term girlfriend, Clementine (Winslet). However, as the memory wiping people (played by Ruffalo, Dunst and Wood) start to remove his memories of Clementine, Joel realises that he still loved her and tries to fight the procedure in order to keep hold of them. That doesn’t sound like a romantic premise, but it is ends up being really touching and emotional thanks to Carrey and Winslet’s chemistry. Their relationship feels like something that could conceivably exist, especially when their highlights and lowlights are shown in an extended montage as Joel runs through his memories. If you couple that with some very beautiful direction and a really amazing script, you have a film that is incredible on every level.

Submarine

Submarine, directed by Richard Ayoade (From I.T. Crowd), is an indie film based in Wales. It stars Craig Roberts as Olivier Tate, a 16 year old boy who tries to become the “best boyfriend in the world” for Jordana Roberts (played by Yasmin Paige) whilst juggling trying to fix his Mum and Dad’s failing relationship. Submarine is saturated with a charming personality. The biggest source of this is Olivier, for he is such an odd child in such a specific way that he is immediately endearing especially when he interacts with Jordana. Their relationship is very cute and romantic, but realistic enough to leave you cringing as both characters muddle their way through a teenage romance. The film mirrors the failing marriage of the older generation, with their one at the very beginning of its inception. As a result, the film can become rather melancholic as you see Olivier’s family start to rip at the seams but through humour, thanks to Ayoade’s panache for comedy, the film never wallows in depressing melodrama. It is a nostalgic film that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Punch-Drunk Love

This is the only time I will ever mention the name Adam Sandler in a positive way. Punch-Drunk Love, directed and written by legendary director Paul Thomas Anderson (He of There Will Be Blood and Magnolia fame), is a really good romantic film. The plot is: a psychologically troubled man named Barry Egan (Sandler) is nudged into a romantic relationship by (and with) a British woman named Lena Leonard (played by Emily Watson) all the while being exploited by a phone sex line headed Dean Trumbell – played by the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like most of Anderson’s films, this one is subtly ‘off-kilter’. Barry acts in bizarre ways due to  his mental problems and random things happen almost arbitrarily, like a piano being dumped in the middle of the street, that are reminiscent of Magnolia or Boogie Nights. Punch-Drunk Love’s weirdness is made especially clear when you realise that this seemingly ‘light’ love film actually has a dark underbelly. When the viewer meets Trumbell, for example, things get rather violent and gritty – almost to the point of parody. I won’t spoil anything, but Hoffman’s hilariously ‘sweary’ performance is a sight to behold. Despite this, however, Punch-Drunk Love is a lovely film whose core – to paraphrase Barry Egan – shows how having a love in your life can make you stronger than you could ever imagine.

Amelie

From one film that pays homage to esoteric French films to a film that actually is one, albeit a mainstream interpretation. Amelie is about the titular Amelie (Audrey Tautou) who discovers a love for helping people without them knowing and whilst doing this, finds love along the way. The film is, quite simply, a lively and colourful modern fairy tale. Amelie’s adventures have no great social significance, nor do they change the world, but what they do create is a love for the little things in life. Quirky is an accurate word to describe Amelie; the saturation of colours and the esoteric camera angles make the film feel very French. The character herself is rather odd thanks to her naiveté about society and how much she daydreams. But that creates a sort of Forrest Gump type of character – one who always strives to do what they feel is right in their uncomplicated world view. When Amelie does find love, the viewer feels cathartic due to this character, who is always selfless throughout the entire film, finally has a reward in the form of true love. Amelie is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.