Who doesn’t love a good romance? They can be light enough for any of your guests or movie-going friends to watch. They can be funny or remarkable, too. Sure, a bad rom-com or romantic drama can be boring, shallow and even irritating.
Then you have a When Harry Met Sally, which ticks off all of the boxes. It’s engaging. It’s thought provoking. It’s charming. It’s depressing. It encourages all of the waves of a relationship to come out. When you think of the best romance films, that kind of example usually comes to mind.
However, what about the films that feel more like a sacrifice to make us feel more? The films that are even debatably a part of the romance genre, but most certainly showcase the highs and lows of a relationship? What about the films where we feel a piece of the main character resides with us, since we essentially witness these people losing a part of themselves as an offering to feel more.
These ten films are as entangled within the fascination with love as their subjects are; you, too, may find yourself hypnotized with the idea of falling in love. That’s when the hurt comes in. You fall for these films, and then you experience the hardships with the lead characters at point blank range. Either way, you will leave having felt something in your inner core. Here are ten of the most painfully beautiful romantic films.
Keep in mind that these entries will contain spoilers.
10. Flesh and the Devil
When love triangles are showcased on film, it can be a stale, old concept. When a love triangle is done right, it can definitely wretch your heart from your chest as the filmmaker intended. In Flesh and the Devil, Leo gets the short end of the stick all of the time. He wins a duel against a count to win the love of the count’s wife Felicitas.
Instead of earning her love, Leo is exiled to Africa for years. His best friend Ulrich, of whom fought alongside Leo in a war, takes care of Felcitas and the two of them fall in love. Leo returns, and tests his luck by dueling his friend.
The ending is a little bit cynical, especially in 2018. Felictas drowns, and the two friends reconcile. Perhaps the championing of their friendship over Felicitas’ life, but we can see it as the only way that either man can cope with the love of their lives dying due to their selfishness.
Chiron has to face the world every single day. Growing up poor and amongst bigots, he never feels truly comfortable unless he is under the wings of Juan and Teresa. Once Juan passes away, Teresa does her best to act as a mother figure to Chiron (whose biological mother is heavily addicted to drugs). Chiron finally finds a romance in Kevin: a childhood friend that has approached him as a teenager. Kevin is forced to attack Chiron by bullies, and the emotional hurt is unimaginable.
As adults, Chiron looks nothing like the way he once did; he has surrendered to the ways of the street. Kevin contacts him and asks to meet up to apologize for that unfortunate day. We end the film with a devastating confession: Chiron never felt comfortable enough to open up to any man ever again. Amongst many scenes of misery, we caught the only joy Chiron found in his love life, and that is all the more depressing to consider.
8. Blue is the Warmest Colour
A teenager is discovering the act of sex for the first time, and it leaves her confused. This wasn’t the fulfilment Adèle desired. Once she falls in love with a girl named Emma, she realizes that the kind of sex she craves – the kind that connects souls together – has to be done with the right person. She leaves herself open for vulnerability, and we viewers can feel the trust radiate from this couple.
Adéle is still learning, though, and her comfort gets mistaken for the need to continue adventuring. Adéle slips up, and her love slips away. That’s that. There is no second chance. Adéle’s life partner was by her side, but she wouldn’t be under every circumstance (as is the case with most people). Blue is, in fact, the warmest colour, because it was the colour of Adéle’s lover’s hair; it is now the emotion that Adéle is forced to find solace in.
7. Happy Together
Wong Kar-wai is a master at making euphoric-feeling romance films. Chungking Express is a pairing of awkward romances that happen at the spur of the moment. In the Mood for Love is the hope that an unlikely love will take place without the ending either person would hope for. 2046 incorporates the complexities of emotional connectivity through its ambitious nature.
Happy Together, however, is a forbidden love depicted by a struggling relationship. One partner is stable and serious, and one is adventurous. The title is ironic, because the joy is always short lived between Lai and Ho, since their clashing natures always lead to misery and disdain.
Either the relationship falls apart, or each partner suffers in isolation. What do we wish would happen for these two? Is there even a correct answer? Sometimes, relationships just don’t work despite how much we all wish them to.
6. City Lights
The Tramp has been the punching bag of so many feature films, and we can already recognize his goofy demeanor at an early age. Even though Charlie Chaplin has so many great features and shorts to watch, City Lights might remain the definitive film based on The Tramp that there ever was. We understand his pain, because we ourselves have laughed at his pain and misery before.
In City Lights, however, we see The Tramp fall in love; this is not an unusual concept, but every other attempt is not quite as magical as the case here. A blind flower girl is the only person to give The Tramp an authentic time of day without any loaded reason in this film, and The Tramp does whatever he can to allow this girl to get the proper surgery to allow her to see again.
This film and its iconic ending get brought up all of the time, even on this website. It’s for good reason; this tear-jerking conclusion may be the strongest act of love ever shown on screen. I challenge anyone to find a better example.