Valentine’s Day may just be the worst holiday for those of us not celebrating with a significant other who instead get drunk, talk about how much love sucks to other single friends and finally end the night by crying because we wish we had it. (No judgment.) This year, though, we at Paste want to give a shout out to that lurking companion to despair—hope. The following is a list of films that inspire hope that love is not something unattainable. It is still there and ready for you to seize it but like all great love stories, it’s not easy to find and it often takes way too long to be just right. (Timing has a lot to do with it.)
Richard Linklater’s heartfelt romance explores the beauties of a first love, what it’s like to actually fall in love and to experience love. The film stars Julie Delpy as a student studying in Paris who catches the eyes of Ethan Hawke, a wayward traveler suffering from a breakup. He persuades her to get off the train with him in Vienna and they walk through the city discussing their ideals and beliefs on love. It’s truly romantic and happens completely by chance. The film shows the raw capabilities possible from having honest discussions.
This beautiful romantic saga shows the harsh realities and silver linings of a long-distance relationship. The story centers on a British exchange student studying in Los Angeles who falls in love with an American student, played respectively by Felicity Jones and the late Anton Yelchin. Because her student visa won’t allow her to remain in the U.S. after graduation the two love birds are forced to be separated. Upon trying to return to the U.S., she is denied entry because of overstaying her student Visa, putting a strain on their relationship. It’s a beautiful little film about true love, timing and unforeseen complexities that arise in relationships. Jones and Yelchin also gave almost 100% improvised performances since the script was just a fifty page outline.
We all dream of going away to Paris for an amazing internship and then coming back to have the love of your life finally notice you, but what if the love of your life turned out to be someone entirely different than you expected? In Sabrina, Julia Ormond experiences hope for recognition upon her return from Paris, faces deception at the hand of those she thought loved her and learns the meaning of that old canard, home is where the heart is. The entire story is about unrequited love and following your own heart to happiness.
This comedy follows three divorced women who vow to get revenge on their husbands who left them for younger women. This sounds hilarious and it is, but the crux of the story lies in friendship and the unbreakable bond that resurrects from tragedy. Diane Keaton, Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn haven’t kept in touch over the years and it’s not until the death of their dear friend from college, played by Stockard Channing, that they realize they should be there for each other … and of course enact war on their lying fleabag ex-husbands. Granted the inclusion of this film may seem a bit cynical for a list about hope, but it’s a good reminder that some ties bind stronger than others.
To say love hurts would be a devastating understatement for our protagonists, Robbie and Cecilia, in Atonement. The British romance takes place on the brink of World War II and spans the war, following the story of two people who grew up together but never really showed any real affection towards one another until a secret note was discovered. Thus begins a sweeping love story that combines wartime romance and summer flings. Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley and a very young Saoirse Ronan, Atonement is an epic romance about betrayal, secrets, lies and the punishment for not telling the truth. It’s also a good reminder that when you do embark on a long-simmering affair, make sure the door to the library/study is locked.
Based on the acclaimed W. Somerset Maugham novel published in 1925, the story follows the broken marriage between Naomi Watts and Edward Norton’s characters. After the discovery of his wife’s affair, Norton plays a biologist who moves his wife and him straight into the center of a cholera epidemic in China in order to help cure it. Some twisted form of punishment for adultery right? What looks as a form of punishment at first for Watts evolves into a rediscovery of passion and love. She finds herself to be strong, unbroken and with purpose, perhaps the very things the lack thereof had led to her affair in the beginning.
Most times after a breakup, we wish we could forget and we wish it had never happened. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the ability to forget loved ones after they depart your life is possible. The film explores, in a beautifully written screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and with brilliant performances by Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, the essence of true romantic love through the visitation of memories. When we look back on our memories, it’s easy to taint them because it makes the pain of losing someone you loved easier. However in Eternal Sunshine we learn to not take things for granted and to appreciate every offer life brings.
Unrequited love may be the most difficult kind of love to get over. It also probably deserves a strong second billing on Valentine’s Day, since folks also get even more reminded if just how lacking in “requite” a particular crush is about this time. In the movie, Julia Roberts stars as a woman who realizes she’s in love with her best friend and when she’s about to confess to him, he reveals he’s engaged. With a incredibly comical tone mostly derived from Rupert Everett’s performance, the film tackles unrequited love in a way that will leave you feeling hopeful and restored.
Benjamin Button ages backwards, but with that he experiences love and life differently. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button suggests that life is not just about a single love, but rather many loves. It’s about being loved by so many others and giving love to those who need it. This film is about life’s journey as seen in an entirely original perspective, yet still so honest. Yes, there is a central love story between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett that spans several decades, but most importantly it explores how much those who have touched our lives truly mean to us.
This breathtaking film about a forbidden love is perhaps the most hopeful on the list. Carol tells the story of an affair between an aspiring photographer searching for what she really wants and an older woman in the middle of a nasty divorce. Their relationship faces strains and challenges as they live in a time period when homosexual relationships were absolutely prohibited. Sacrifices must be made and truths must be uncovered but all is not lost in this love story as timing plays a key element in deciding their fate as a couple. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara deliver beautifully nuanced performances as Carol and Terese.