February 14 is upon us, and as per tradition, people are already making reservations to fancy restaurants, buying extravagant gifts and planning grand romantic gestures. Over the few days, the Ateneo campus is bound to be blooming with the sort of innocent happiness that can only come from young love. It’s a heartwarming sight.
If you’re into that sort of thing, I guess.
For the rest of us, we need things to do. If the bubbly sweetness of the season isn’t for you, we here at Vantage are glad to offer alternatives of a lonelier, more cinematic flavor. There are few Single Awareness Day traditions as time-honored as hunkering down alone to catch a romance movie or five, so we’ve decided to compile a list of potential V-Day standards that will make you laugh, cry or wish you had someone to watch them with.
While the history of romantic comedies goes almost as far back as the history of cinema itself, the genre as we know it didn’t really come together until 1999, when Notting Hill came crashing into the hearts of weepie-lovers the world over. All your favorite rom-com tropes are here, and Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant are practically the Adam and Eve of modern love stories. Don’t let its adherence to formula dissuade you, however; at its core, Notting Hill is an exercise in truth and love. Besides, how can you not feel anything at, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”? You monster.
An infectious sort of joy permeates Amélie: The kind that reflects off your eyes and seeps into your soul. Centered on the starry-eyed title character’s search for companionship, the film depicts Amélie as your typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl—mischievous and airheaded, but always kindhearted—but it puts a spin on the trope by depicting Amélie as the chaser, and not the chased. Erupting with electricity at every frame, Amélie is the precise movie you need when V-Day rolls around and you’ve forgotten what happiness feels like.
Watching Before Sunset is akin to third-wheeling on the most perfect couple you know; it strengthens your faith in romance while making you wish you could find your own person. Jesse and Celine’s whirlwind meeting, like all great love stories, waltzes in wish fulfillment, but is pulled off with such inimitable style and natural grace that it feels not just possible but probable. The conversation never feels forced or fantastic, yet they constantly prod at a deeper kind of love and regret: One that may just make you believe in love again.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Blessed are the forgetful, indeed. Everyone who’s ever loved and lost has once wished they could just start off with a clean slate, without all the excess baggage that comes with moving on. Enter Lacuna, the sketchy memory wipe clinic that Joel turns to when he wants to erase his mind of the fiery, impulsive Clementine. What follows is a touching paean to the beauty of memory and the nagging persistence of love. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a sci-fi romance that somehow never feels contrived and always feels deeply honest—a masterpiece of romantic cinema.
(500) Days of Summer
(500) Days of Summer may very well be the defining romance movie of the millennial generation, which is especially funny because the film pretty much turns the entire genre on its head. The film plays with its medium like few others, and through the staccato bursts of inventive set pieces, we find the fragments of the familiar, ineffable, bittersweet feeling of something we had once thought to be real. It is an anti-love movie for a budding anti-love generation, and a guaranteed heart-wrencher for all the sawi people out there.
English Only, Please
Our last film is one that’s as beholden to the formula as the first, and like the first, it also manages to transcend the formula, telling a story that’s surprisingly touching and legitimately feelsy. English Only, Please is by no means a game changer, but it’s an extremely well-made piece of cinema that exemplifies everything great (or terrible, depending on who you ask) about Filipino romance movies. Say what you want about its predictability, but English Only, Please is a film that buys so wholeheartedly into its conceit that you can’t help but fall in love along with it.