Credit: Neon / Curzon Artificial Eye

Essential Valentine’s Day Films

By Oscar Logan

Love, passion, romance: the romantic film holds true and strong year round.

Now that everyone’s least favourite greeting card holiday has long passed, it seems like a suitable time to reflect on some romantic films. Whether you spent the Valentine’s alone or with someone(s) special, I have gathered the following three films as personal favourites for the lonely hearts and lovesick alike.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Meeting for the first time as they leave college, the eponymous Harry (Billy Crystal) shares a long car ride to New York with Sally (Meg Ryan). During the journey Harry poses the film’s central question: can men and women ever really be friends? He says no, she says yes. Sparks do not fly. The car ride concludes with the pair bidding one another farewell and good riddance. Over the following years the pair continue to bump into each other, and a friendship slowly blooms.

What follows is a delightful combination of chemistry, a TK Maxx supply of Autumn apparel, and a healthy dosage of will-they-won’t-they romantic tension. The film is at its best when it pairs the two leads together. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are fantastic together as they pull the ultimate magic trick of convincing you that maybe true love does exist (coincidently, if you fancy a true love, Rob Reiner double feature, it pairs excellently with The Princess Bride).

It is nothing that you can’t find elsewhere in a dozen other rom-coms. But When Harry Met Sally isn’t about reinventing the wheel. It perfected it into the most circular, rom-com, delightful looking wheel out there.

Before Sunrise (1995)

Richard Linklater’s meandering romance begins within the confines of a train as Jessie (Ethan Hawke), an American travelling Europe by train, strikes up conversation with Céline (Julie Delpy). A chemistry is immediately evident, but their conversation is unfortunately cut short by the train’s arrival in Vienna where Jessie is departing. And that could have been it, the two bid one another farewell and wonder what could have been. Instead, Jessie asks Céline to join him. He only has one night in Vienna, and he wants to spend that night with her. Céline accepts.

And thus the city, and each other, unfolds as they wander the streets chatting about everything and nothing. The focus here is very much on the dialogue. Long unbroken shots allow conversation to flow without interruption as Jessie and Céline discuss their dreams, muse over philosophy, and slowly, desperately, fall in love.

The fantastic script is brought to life by Ethan Hawke’s and Julie Delpy’s performances (who both co-wrote the script alongside Richard Linklater). The concoction of hopefulness, naivety, and terror that typifies early adulthood is present in their every movement as they are uncertain of what the future holds for them, as well as what is happening in the immediate present.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Hot period lesbian drama is the SNL elevator pitch for Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which was quite honestly enough to get me to watch it. If further convincing is required, it is also the most visceral portrayal of longing put to screen.Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint an engagement portrait of Héloïse (Adéle Haenel), a French aristocrat living on a remote island. There is, however, a catch: Marianne must paint her in secret. Héloïse refuses to pose as protest at her mother’s decision to resign her to a life of marriage. Marianne therefore assumes the guise of a companion, joining Héloïse for walks while stealing glances to work on the portrait by candlelight.

One should not expect a rapid fire unfolding of plot interspersed with witty dialogue. Portrait lives in the quiet moments – the stolen glances, the subtle gestures, the unspoken (and perhaps unspeakable). It is a pressure cooker of the gentlest variety. Passion, desire, and longing are left to stew as the inevitable eruption quietly cooks throughout the film.


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments