I’m kinda-sorta going through a break up type-thing (I think) at the moment and while everything I have read and everyone around me tells me to stay away from romance/love/rom-com’s (they aren’t a favourite genre anyhow), I have found myself with a need to revisit some ‘relationship’ films that explore the idea that love and lovers do not always work out like we hope they will and that sometimes, that is just the way things are.
Not that I am looking for answers or redemption or .. well, anything really, but I am finding solace in (re)watching some stories that suggest that I am not alone in my misery and bewilderment that perhaps (just perhaps) one day I will look back and at the very, very least feel indifference and most of all, that we don’t always get to keep the one we love, because life is just shitty that way.
I have already started this list with a look at “Closer” in this post. But, I am going to take a quick look at a few more stock-staples for anyone who is currently nursing a broken heart or ego.
(note: as usual, films are in no particular order)
1: 500 Days of Summer (2009)
Currently, my ultimate break up film. Mainly because the character of Summer (Zooey Deschanel) manages to behave like and be the ultimate lover for Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and yet, insists all-the-while that he and she are just ‘friends’ (this has resonance for me right now), but also because of Tom’s disintegration after they split; it’s quietly reassuring to know that other people, even if they are fictional characters, have felt as shitty and hopeless as I have.
Another thing I love about this film is how the temporal line is split up to show the juxtaposition/s of blossoming romance to the holocaust-like aftermath that it often leaves in its wake when one person, rather than both, decide that it just isn’t what they are looking for.
Tom not only has to deal with the loss of Summer, his belief that nobody will ever replace her or that he will ever feel quite that way again, he has to deal with her moving on and getting married before he has time to truly let go. Tom spends the first half of this romance convinced that Summer really does love him despite her protests that she doesn’t believe in love and the other half recovering from his own inability to have seen what was really going on.
2: Bridesmaids (2011)
You have probably already seen “Bridesmaids” (didn’t everyone in the western hemisphere see it?) but if you haven’t re-watched it and you are suffering through a break up, take the time and watch it again.
First of all, main protagonist Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) life is completely and utterly fucked up. There is no way your life can be worse than hers is. Her business has gone bankrupt, her boyfriend left her when it did and she is trying to pretend to be in a FWB situation with the completely emotionally unavailable Ted (John Hamm) who doesn’t even like her to ‘sleep over’ after sex, she has a crappy job that she despises, two completely bizarre roommates and to top things off, the one person in her life who she can talk to and relate to has just announced that she is getting married.
The funny part? Things get progressively worse as Annie struggles to ward off the jealousy she feels for her old friend’s upcoming nuptials AND seeming new-and-improved ‘BFF’ (Rose Byrne), the fact that she seems to be completely ruining every event leading up to the wedding and her weirdo flatmates kick her out so she has to move home to her mother’s.
Annie’s life is so shitty that you can’t help but either relate completely or exhale as you realise that your life isn’t perhaps QUITE so bad after all.
Apatow’s “Bridesmaids” revitalised the genre when it was released and it’s still utterly hilarious, especially if you need to remember how to laugh at life and not succumb to it.
Watch this scene: I defy you not to LOL
3: The Break-Up (2006)
Warning: This is NOT a great film, it’s not even a good film. What this film is, is a fairly decent portrayal of how things go wrong, then get nasty and finally, settle down. It’s a watchable film and if you happen to be going through a break up, it’s more than watchable.
What this film does have is one very memorable scene (and sometimes, that’s all a film needs) where Gary (Vince Vaughn) has a party at the condo he is still sharing with Brooke (Jennifer Aniston). Brooke comes home to find Gary and his friends living it up with a bunch of young, nubile and barely dressed girls. Brooke walks in to see Gary watching one of the nymphs dancing/stripping in front of Gary and the look on his face is just so .. bestial and lustful that it leaves no question as to his desire and intent. It’s a really painful moment to watch, and for anyone who has lost a lover to infidelity, it hits home. It also makes the film worthwhile because if Brooke can get through that, then GF/BF YOU can get through anything!
4: “Angel” Season 1, Episode 8: “I Will Remember You”
Did you ever have to break up with someone due to circumstances only? And even though you were both still completely in love, one of you knew that the only thing left to do was walk away because staying together was only going to cause more pain?
Cue Buffy and Angel. Possibly one of the great romances in TV history, but Angel realises that staying with Buffy is preventing her from moving on with her life because, well, because he is a vampire and she .. isn’t. So, Angel takes the high road to L.A, leaving Buffy heart-broken.
One day, Buffy comes to town and needs to see Angel, while there, Angel is infected with the blood of a demon that renders him human again, giving he and Buffy the chance to be together .. the thing they both want more than anything. However, things go horribly wrong and Angel realises that his life is not yet his own and in choosing to stay human he is putting both his and Buffy’s lives at risk. So, being the champion that he is, Angel goes to see some higher powers and arranges for time to be reversed, for the wonderful day he has spent with his beloved Buffy to be ‘swallowed’ as though it never happened – the catch? Only HE will remember the day, he will have to live with the memory and knowledge of what might-have-been.
This is a heartbreaker folks.
5: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Charlie Kaufman’s off-beat kinda-rom-com explores the existential horror that comes from being trapped inside one’s own desires and comes very close to explaining why sometimes, no matter how much somebody seems so right for us, the relationship is doomed as we can never fully erase the dark moments we have brought to it.
Joel (Jim Carey) starts the film wondering why his girlfriend Klementine (Kate Winslet) seems to have no memory of who he is. He discovers that she has had her memories of him erased and, disheartened, Joel decides to do the same.
I don’t want to give too much away here as the journey is all with this film and as we follow the arc of the film and the relationship, the reveal is worth the earlier frustration it sometimes brings.
NOTE: I can’t believe I forgot to add “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” … I’ll correct this oversight ASAP