Valentine’s Day can play havoc with one’s emotions. Sure, it’s great to go out and celebrate shared love with another person. But it can also ramp up feelings of self-doubt, whether single or in coupledom. It’s helpful that there are a bunch of movies out there that pay homage to the complexities of romance.
Like Permission (released Feb. 9), starring Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens as a loved-up couple who’ve only ever slept with each other. When their friends point this out to the pair, they set out to explore unknown “territory” before taking the plunge into fiancéehood:
The above does not sound like a good idea to us. Here’s a better one: prepare yourself for this oh-so heated holiday with these 10 films:
1. If you’re dreading February 14.
Valentine’s Day is just another day, really. But, it’s easy to get worked up over its symbolism. Let’s turn to an ol’ friend, Bridget Jones, to avoid any doom and gloom. Renée Zellweger portrays the iconic single girl, living in London, running around town with her gaggle of friends in 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. “I have two choices,” says Bridget. “To give up and accept permanent state of spinsterhood and eventually be eaten by Alsatians… or not, and this time I choose not.” That’s the spirit, Brig! And, in case you’re wondering, “Alsatians” is just what Brits call German Shepherds.
2. If you’d prefer to spend the day with friends.
It’s not uncommon to go out as a group on V-Day; there’s power in numbers! It makes us think back to the 1994 coming-of-age film Reality Bites, about a group of friends in their twenties, portrayed by Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn. Sure, there’s a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, but for the most part, the movie’s about life choices and leaning on a support network. Ben Stiller directed Reality Bites and also stars as a music television exec and possible love interest for Ryder’s character Lelaina. Sit back and enjoy a film about friends, and don’t pressure yourself into making a life plan on this day of all days.
3. If you’re crushing on someone.
Audrey Tautou, who you may know from Amélie, stars in the romantic, though not particularly comedic film, He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not. At first glance, yes, it seems the married doctor — the man Tautou’s character fancies — does in fact love her back. But, we’re only seeing the story from her point of view. When things are flipped around, it’s a completely different story. A lot of unneeded pressure can come with Valentine’s Day, and this film about unrequited love might be the bit of escapism needed to shake those crushing feelings.
4. If you’re in a new relationship.
The movie Valentine’s Day provides ample ideas on how to spend the day. As Ashton Kutcher points out in the trailer, “It’s the day your love life is put on display.” The film explores multiple relationships, from meet-ups to break-ups, with some make-ups thrown in for good measure . In addition to Kutcher, you can look for a whole lot of familiar faces, including Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Kathy Bates, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Topher Grace, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift and George Lopez.
5. If you’ve been counting down since New Year.
So, you really like Valentine’s Day? Go you! Embrace your day. V-Day is this coming Wednesday (February 14), so you have time to speed up on some seriously romantic films. How about The Notebook? It’s a great go-to for men and women, as we see what happens on both sides of the relationship. In the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks‘ hugely popular 1996 novel of the same name, we meet a young guy (Ryan Gosling) who is courting a gal (Rachel McAdams) during the 1940s. The thing is, she’s been deemed out of his league by society. The other thing is, he doesn’t care. He knows she loves him back and is willing to fight for her.
6. If over-the-top gushy love really annoys you.
If public displays of affection, even in film, really just aren’t for you, then maybe indulge in a not-so-romantic romantic film like Garden State. Zach Braff portrays an L.A.-based aspiring actor, who returns home to New Jersey to attend his mother’s funeral. While he’s in town, he meets an over-zealous young woman (Natalie Portman), who has a penchant for lying. When it’s time for him to return to the West Coast, his heart strings are being tugged on by this new, slightly quirky, person in his life. It might be hard to make out, but there is a love story in there… under all of the neurosis. In addition to starring, Braff wrote and directed Garden State.
7. If you’re missing an ex.
If you’re mending a broken heart, then that feeling of longing is even worse on Valentine’s Day. But you’re not alone. Charlie Kaufman wrote the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, starring Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, all about the complexities of breaking up. After a falling out, Clementine (Winslet) decides to have all memories of her ex-boyfriend (Carrey) erased from her mind. Two can play at that game. Her ex hears about this medical intervention and does the same. But, memories exist for a reason, making us who we are today… and he ultimately fights to hold onto them. The ensemble cast also includes Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson.
8. If your mister or mistress is your career.
With Valentine’s Day landing smack in the middle of the work week, you may have a standing obligation, like, working late. And if that’s the case, maybe throw on Love Actually after clocking out. Most everyone in this film is looking for love, but also trying to slot romance in around their busy work lives. Hugh Grant plays the Prime Minister of Great Britain, so he never really gets the day off. Laura Linney‘s character throws herself into work, but that might be because of a certain handsome colleague. Colin Firth‘s character may not be in an office, but he’s working on a novel from his French cottage (must be nice!). It is possible to have it all, right?
9. If you’re totes single and flat-out okay with it.
Hoorah! That’s what we like to hear. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers. It could also be about celebrating your love of life. The 1999 teen comedy, 10 Things I Hate About You, comes to mind. OK, yes, there is some love-y stuff in there, but for the most part, it looks at two individuals: strong-willed Kat (Julia Stiles) and outsider Patrick (Heath Ledger), who are doing their own thing. When their lives collide, it makes for some challenging, yet somewhat satisfying, situations. If you’re getting a hint of Taming of the Shrew, you’re spot on. This film was inspired by William Shakespeare‘s romantic comedy.
10. If you’re really, really just not having it.
And, finally, if you are absolutely not interested in recognizing the day, then possibly the new film Double Lover is a good way to spend an hour and a half. The French killer-thriller hits theaters on Wednesday, February 14… coincidence? The story follows a young woman (Marine Vacth) named Chloé whose lover (Jérémie Renier) has another side to him. We don’t mean that in a, “Woah, you’re cranky in the morning,” kind of way. But, more like, “Woah, are you doing something criminal that I don’t know about?” It might be a little intimidating to go the theater alone, but we’re guessing you’ll leave feeling relieved to be flying solo. In the, “Whew, no one is trying to kill me,” kind of way.
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