The romance film genre can be defined as films that explore essential themes of love and passion. This can include romantic love, obsessive love, tragic love, first love and platonic love – to name just a few.
The romance genre also has dozens of subgenres such as historical romance, romantic drama, romantic comedy and romantic thrillers. What all these subgenres have in common though is that the main plot focus or narrative revolves around love and romance.
The romance genre is an incredibly popular genre and dozens of romance films are released every year. 2017 was no exception to this and a plethora of romance films hit cinemas with varying critical and financial results.
This list looks at ten of the best romance films released in 2017. In a year where big blockbusters and action films ruled the box office, it was harder than ever for romance films to make their mark. But the following films pushed through and were able to make an impact, whether it was critically, financially or indelibly.
10. My Cousin Rachel
Young Englishman Phillip Ashley travels to Florence, Italy after growing concerned for his cousin Ambrose. Upon arriving in Florence, Phillip finds Ambrose dead. Blaming Ambrose’s missing wife Rachel for his cousin’s untimely demise, Phillip vows to find her and exact his revenge. However, upon meeting Rachel he finds himself falling under her seductive charm and drawn in by her beguiling beauty. As his obsession for Rachel grows, he doesn’t realise that Rachel is hatching her own scheme against him.
Based upon the 1951 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel has garnered attention due to its strong performances. In particular, Rachel Weisz has been praised for her depiction of Rachel with critics calling her performance “electrifying” and “mesmerising.”
Although the story is set in Cornwall, director Roger Michell filmed on location in Devon near to the Cornwall border. This was to avoid comparisons between the film and popular British drama Poldark, which is set in Cornwall and is similar in tone and style.
My Cousin Rachel benefits from its atmospheric settings – the vast English landscapes and grand houses lending well to its gothic ambitions. Underlying this romantic film is an interesting message about power, money and whether a woman should be in possession of both. Combining these elements with great cinematography and an emphasis on the film being performance driven and My Cousin Rachel is a thrilling, romance period piece.
9. Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
In 1981, ageing Hollywood star Gloria Grahame is spending the last days of her career doing theatre work in the U.K. One night, after she collapses before a performance, Gloria calls her old flame Peter Turner and asks him if she can recuperate in his family home in Liverpool. As Gloria gets sicker, Peter reminisces on the romance that they had between them that changed both of their lives.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is based on the memoir of the same name by Peter Turner. The film was received well, with particular emphasis on the performances of Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame and Jamie Bell as Peter Turner. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool has been nominated for various awards, especially in the acting categories and was nominated for three awards at the 71st British Academy Film Awards including Best Actress for Bening and Best Actor for Bell.
Cynics may not buy in to the vast age gap relationship on display in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, but the film explores interesting issues of sexism and ageism. And for those who do buy into the relationship, then the film is incredibly affecting and emotional. The standout of this film is definitely a star turn from Annette Bening who perfectly encapsulates an actress at the end of her career. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool shows that you don’t get to pick who touches your life, but you should hold on to those who do.
8. Marjorie Prime
A service that creates holographic projections of late family members allows ailing eighty six year old Marjorie to spend precious time with a computerised younger version of her late husband Walter. Marjorie’s Prime is curious about Walter and his life and relies on Marjorie and her family to give him information so that he can better understand their history. As everyone’s interactions with him take on a new level, the family begin to develop diverging versions of their lives, drawn into the chance to relive the past.
Marjorie Prime premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2017 where it won the Sloan Feature Film Prize. It has received critical acclaim. Based upon the Pulitzer Prize nominated play of the same name by Jordan Harrison, Lois Smith reprised her role as Marjorie after appearing in two productions of the play.
Memory and its unreliability and malleability, are one of the primary themes explored in this ambitious and futuristic film from director Michael Almereyda. But that isn’t the only question raised in this thought-provoking film which also raises questions on what it means to be human, what it means to love, what it means to lose someone, and the ethics of technology.
Marjorie Prime may put some audiences off with its dialogue heavy script and slow pace, but it will delve deeply into your mind and implant itself there as you grapple with the issues it raises. Marjorie Prime shows us that love doesn’t end within the limitations of death or memory.
Arthritic artist Maud lives in Nova Scotia and yearns to be independent from her protective family. Seeking a job, Maud moves in with gruff fishmonger Everett Lewis to work for him as a housekeeper. Despite their differing personalities and their constant clashes, Everett and Maud forge a close relationship as Maud’s art grows in popularity and she becomes a beloved figure in the community.
Maudie was well received by critics and has won a number of awards at festivals. Maudie is a biographical film based on the life of artist Maud Lewis. Attempts to make a film based on her life had been ongoing for a number of years, but it wasn’t until director Aisling Walsh committed to the project that it was greenlit.
Another film which makes brilliant use of its central location – in this case Newfoundland which is serving as Nova Scotia and offers breath-taking views. This setting also adds to the isolation of the main characters. Maudie is beautifully shot and captures perfectly the simplicity of the film – Maudie is a modest and quiet film which isn’t prone to drama or flashy scenes. The main draw of this film though is an excellent performance from Sally Hawkins who plays Maud. Her nuanced performance lends a warmth and sensitivity to the film and makes Maudie a film that will stay with you long after it has ended.
6. The Lovers
Mary and Michael are married and live together but they are also estranged. They are both involved in long term affairs – Mary with Robert and Michael with Lucy. Although both of their lovers have demanded that Mary and Michael part ways, Mary and Michael refuse to do so until their son Joel and his new girlfriend Erin have visited. However, things become even more complicated when Mary and Michael both start to fall for the least likely person imaginable – each other.
The Lovers had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2017 and received a limited theatrical release. It received positive reviews from critics and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay.
The first thing that stands out about The Lovers is its orchestral score, which feels reminiscent of old school romantic films but is used almost sardonically here. The Lovers has a slightly satirical feel but amongst that it does have a strangely poignant tone. Sometimes the connections that we think we can so easily dismiss, are actually the ones that we can’t let go of. In the small moments where Mary and Michael are reconnecting, there is a romantic realism that makes The Lovers a great film.