What sort of romantic film is best, how does one judge which is a bulls eye and which is simply some robotically mass market clone that is about as romantic as Hostel Part II?
Fear not men for reproduced herein are guidelines by which it should be easy to sort the Four Weddings and a Funeral’s from the endless and soul destroying awful Adam Sandler templates!
The answer is simply just follow these stages:
- Opposites attract-
The whole issue with the romantic film genre is that the viewer actively goes to the film wanting a certain outcome (i.e. the affirmation of love through the successful relationship between the two leads). This, as we might say, is point B, the ending. It would not, however, be a very interesting or appealing film if the two people got together and all was fine and dandy. Instead there has to be a problem, and this is usually due to the unsuitability, due to some trait, of the characters. This is ‘will they/won’t they’ is the driving force of interest and ultimately the plot. This can come in many forms, the classic being that the two lovers are from warring tribes/ families/ classes (see Romeo + Juliet and Titanic), occupation (Pretty Woman, Love Actually and Notting Hill) or complicating factor (Amelie, Lost in Translation, Brokeback Mountain and Twilight). This point is, however, very much the an intrinsic part of the DNA of romantic films; so there are really no worries as to this requirement as long as you choose from within the genre.
The ‘meet-cute’, although not a very well-known phrase, is that used by the film critic Roger Ebert to describe the contrived first meeting of the first two characters. There is usually a certain amount of awkwardness from which humour can be found in romantic comedies. The classic example that is always given is the meeting of Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper in the film Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife in which the two main characters go to a department store and one buys the bottom half of a pair of trousers, the other the top. There are literally hundreds of examples of this from the meeting on the platform in Brief Encounters to the protagonist stumbling across another robot in Wall-E. The reason why romantic comedies need the meet-cute is in some senses obvious, as if the characters do not meet it is difficult to establish a story line (although this is not necessarily a bad thing see the first series of Love Soup where the lovers never meet or know of one another’s existence). The meeting also gives you an idea of how likely the couple are to stay together, the fact Laura and Alec met in a train station being a clear indication of the unlikihood of success.
- Happily ever after?
The big question is really what sort of ending do you want? Are you going for a happily ever after, with or without a marriage (on which see Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pride and Prejudice and Dirt Dancing), one or both of the lovers dying and so there being no happily ever after (Atonement, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Titanic, Wuthering Heights, the list is unending!) or one where the lovers can’t be together but are still alive (Casablanca, Brief Encounters, Shakespeare in Love and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The answer is that the first and second categories can be said to celebrate the power of love, in one instance affirming it through a relationship and in the second proving it’s immortality and power. I would personally stay away from the final category, the fact that there are things more important than love is not the sort of message you want to run with for Valentine’s Day.
I would therefore suggest that the sort of romantic film you want to be watching on Valentine’s Day has an attraction of opposites, an awkward meeting and finally either the happy marriage/ relationship of the two partners or their untimely death.