4 Oddball "Romance" Films
On-screen love stories are difficult to pull off. Filmmakers have to find that balance between vulnerability and voyeurism - it's all a play between the peachy and rough. There has to be an actual story, of course, not just a series of loosely connected saucy scenes, though some of us don't mind debating the bounds of the erotic. Still, most people just go to the movies (or Netflix) to get away from reality for awhile, and being absorbed in a movie that they've heard is about love can lead to certain assumptions about "romance." Read on to learn more about what makes the following off-beat films so darn loverly and - in their own special ways - romantic.
1) Hable con ella ("Talk to Her"): Pedro Almodovar, Spain 2002 - Benigno is a kind and intelligent man who has a difficult time connecting with people. His job as a nurse in a coma ward gives him the chance to care for a Alicia, beautiful dancer he came into contact with years before under decidedly creepy circumstances (he stalked her a bit). Providing extra-special care for Alicia day and night, Begnino is all at once praised and subject to suspicion - particularly when Alicia is found to have missed periods (yikes). Director Pedro Almodovar satirizes the shameful and intrusive actions of men in this stalker-based love story, blending rape and empathy and love with humiliation. The woman literally has no control over her life and the man, though he is loving and kind, assumes her wishes and, indeed, creates a life for her without her consent. This is quite an allegory for women's rights.
What's wrong with this picture? By law, the guy's a creeper and violated some serious boundaries
...but what lulls viewers into the "romance"? In that creeper way, Bengino is actually capable of a kind of love that makes viewers take a look at their own devotion to partners, lovers, and friends.
2) En la cama ("In Bed"): Matias Bize, Chile 2005 - Daniela and Bruno meet at a club in Santiago and end up spending the night in a motel room. The structure is the hetero version of Julio Medem's 2010 "Room in Rome," exploring the mentality of the duo during what may or may not be her last one-night-stand before marriage. Their all-night sexual escapade is interrupted several times by the "real world" in the form of urgent phone calls, unintended shows of emotion and even a broken condom fiasco. The unspoken agreement is that the two will go their separate ways some time in the night, but when the sun rises and they are still entangled, their discomforts about the world beyond the bed overflow into actual conversation. Watch the movie to find out how this ends - no assumptions.
What's wrong with this picture?: We're watching an illicit affair play out....
...but what lulls viewers into the "romance"? Who are we to judge? These characters are living much deeper stories than we might expect from a movie called "In Bed."
3) Love My Life: Koji Kawano, Japan 2006 - Ichiko was raised by her single father after her mother died. When she starts dating Eri, Ichiko decides to come out as a lesbian to her father, even though she is on edge about what he might think of her. In a wonderfully odd twist of events, Ichiko's dad is relieved to know he has a gay daughter, because he has been keeping his own sexuality a secret for her whole life. It turns out that Ichiko was born to two gay parents who were best friends and decided that they wanted a child. They each had lovers who were a part of her young life as friends of the family. Kawano's story is brilliant because it takes on the idea of different forms of families and parent-child relationships by being almost absurdly flexible in breaking traditions.
What's wrong with this picture? Look everybody! It's a love story about lesbians, gay parenting and educated young women. It's actually completely great in my book, so get with it.
...but what lulls viewers into the "romance"? Read above.
4) I Can't Think Straight: Shamim Sarif, UK 2008 - Tala is from a wealthy Jordanian family and is expected to marry a man of her class and religion. She has been in a long list of seemingly promising relationships that led to marriage proposals, but tends to get cold feet just before (or on) the wedding day. When she meets a friend of a friend named Leyla (who is of Indian descent and was also raised by strictly traditional parents), sparks fly in the face of both social and parental tyranny. After an intense affair, they are forced to face the fact that they can't develop their relationship if they don't come out to their parents. Choosing not to tell means they will live a life of lies, far apart. Choosing to come out means that they can be together, but they will almost certainly lose all ties to the life they knew. Shamim Sarif succeeds in telling the story of two young women who choose love over conventional expectations of womanhood.
What's wrong with this picture? Holy capers: they did it again! It's a love story about inter-faith, multicultural, affluent, gorgeous lesbians.
...but what lulls viewers into the "romance"? I think you get the picture. Vive l'amour, my fellow humans.