I’ll set the scene -- a romantic comedy. I want you to think of what makes these relatable for romantic relationships.
A guy and a girl fall deeply in love. However, one of the significant other’s suffering from a fatal illness, and the other significant other is trying their best to show how much they love them before they pass. Two rom-coms have already come to mind, like the iconic A Walk To Remember and the fairly recent The Fault In Our Stars.
How about this: The main character wants the affection of this one person, so they use an arbitrary person to help them make the other person jealous or gain something. However, they find out how endearing the person who they’re in the fake relationship with is and ends up in a real relationship with them, like in the recent adaptation of To All The Boys I Loved Before or even the mid-2000s movie, The Proposal.
Although these movies are endearing, for sure, unless you have been through these specific circumstances yourself, it’s very rare to find these movies all that relatable. This is solely due to the fact that a lot of romantic comedies fall prey to relying on their gimmicks as the main driving force of the movie. Yes, these help drive the movie forward, but these larger than life situations take away, in my opinion, what makes the genre so fantastic in the first place: their ability to relate to real emotions about love and either speak some truth about them or present some satisfying closure for them.
It’s always bothered me that romantic movies were written this way, as it somewhat made me think that these writers really don’t think real life relationships are interesting or important, which I think is the complete opposite. There are always new lessons and beauty to be found in the unfolding of a relationship. There’s also so much drama that can be found in so many simple things within a relationship, such as whether the significant other wants to take things seriously by moving in, or how a relationship can change over 30 years. This can be seen in movies like 500 Days of Summer, where the main conflict of the movie wasn’t a jealous ex or amnesia but rather the main character’s perceptions on his relationship, and how the lesson was how he had to demystify that perception.
There’s also so much beauty to be found in the simple emotions found within a relationship that are often brushed off by filmmakers in service of the plot of the story. This aspect of romance movies shows how important editing is in particular for this genre of movies. When filmmakers make that the subject of the movie and let their directing and editing allow these moments breathe and play out, the movie instantly becomes more engaging and much more emotionally resonant. This can be seen from films by Wong Kar Wai, particularly in his movie In The Mood For Love, where he intentionally prolongs certain scenes, letting the audience sit with the tension and emotions of the scene. The is shown particularly well with In The Mood For Love, where he tries to capture the emotion of longing.
A movie trilogy that I believe encapsulates all of this beautifully is the Before Trilogy, where all of these movies are primarily about the main characters having conversations with each other, where you just see the relationship unfold right in front of you. These movies combine everything, from learning lessons and emotional tension and drama, to letting emotions breathe within a scene through the editing, by something as simple as two people having a conversation. As the director Richard Linklater states, “Nothing interesting happens other than those connections being made”.
I remember asking a friend about why they though romantic comedies and romance movies are usually written in such an unrealistic style, and they said that it was due to how these movies are essentially power fantasies for people to live through vicariously. While I do appreciate these movies, I believe that constantly using these gimmicks in film are ruining some of the authenticity of these movies and ultimately turn people away from the genre, as well. I believe that romance movies nowadays need to go back to the basics and focus on the emotions and the conflict that come with love stories and relationships.