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Silver Linings Playbook to The Shape of Water: 10 atypical romantic dramas to reinforce your faith in the genre

Not all romantic dramas need to have a bad boy, a girl-next-door and the conventional and cheesy meet-cute. There's a thing called 'pushing the envelope' and these ten movies do exactly that.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi | Published: February 14, 2018 6:00 am
Stills from Silver Linings Playbook and The Shape of Water This Valentine’s Day, binge-watch these unconventional romantic dramas

Valentine’s Day fever is here and people are generally on the lookout for romantic movies to binge-watch with their loved ones during the season. But not all of us are big fans of the usual, soppy flicks that the audience tends to associate with the genre. Some of us actually like pushing the envelope and are delighted when a film tries to subvert the genre in subtle or a big way. Change is not always a bad thing. So, if you are one of those who would like to try something unconventional for your romantic palate, then this list is for you.

Silver Linings Playbook

It would be hard to develop a listicle of atypical romantic dramas without including David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. The 2012 movie, which won America’s sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence her first Oscar, is a story about love, mental illness, and relationships. Lead stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper’s chemistry crackle and burn the screen, as Jennifer’s character Tiffany Maxwell (a young widow) matches steps with Cooper’s Pat.

Pat suffers from bipolar disorder. After getting back on his own two feet, he is determined to win the love of his estranged wife. Enter Tiffany, who says she would help him get back his wife if he helps her win a dance competition. And of course, Tiffany has her own issues to deal with, which makes the relationship that she shares with Pat all the more complicated. What ensues is moments of grief and laughter. Deliciously real.

The film has been adapted from Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name.

High Fidelity

The film has been adapted from British writer Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name. High Fidelity stars John Cusack as the music snob who has just gotten out of a serious relationship. Despite being involved in a string of relationships in the past, Cusack’s Rob Gordon cannot understand women. In an interview about the film, writer Nick Hornby had once said that he thought that Cusack was Rob Gordon reading his book aloud. And yes, he meant that in the best way possible.

What happens when a music enthusiast who owns a record store cannot make the women in his life stay? High Fidelity is high on humour, music, and wonderfully explores the question of what it means to be in relationships, without getting boring. Jack Black and Todd Louiso deliver solid supporting performances. One of those movies that is almost as good as the book. Now, that’s not something that happens often.

The Before trilogy

Almost Famous director Richard Linklater is great at what he does; investigating what it means to be human. In the Before series, Linklater goes deeper into the realms of romance with his usual honesty and good writing. The movies, which feature Etha Hawke and Julie Delpy in starring roles, is sublime. Jesse and Celine meet, converse (at length), flirt, fall in love and separate over a period of two decades.

The movie is literally a goldmine of great quotes about love and life, and the camera work is exquisite. As good as they come. In fact, better.

The Shape of Water

This year’s Oscar-nominated movie Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is not your regular love story and that’s an understatement. Because the movie’s ‘hero’ is a pagan God, who looks like a weirdly distorted version of a merman. Go, figure.

The Shape of Water has the romance, the heart, the emotions and it raises pertinent questions about how we treat the ‘other’. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t mind the mix of romance and dark fantasy, then this is the movie you have to watch.

Lost in Translation

The always fantastic Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson feature as disillusioned individuals in Sofia Coppola’s romantic comedy. Murray plays Bob, an aging actor who is going through a mid-life crisis, while Johansson’s character Charlotte, is a young college student who experiences difficulty in coming to terms with her husband’s lifestyle as a celebrity photographer. The movie is set in Japan, where the characters meet and develop a platonic relationship, which takes a life of its own as the movie progresses. The film was nominated for four Oscars, and deservedly so.

The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani starrer The Big Sick is a romantic comedy, for all sense and purposes. Boy meets girl, they separate, they end up together. But what makes Big Sick special is its treatment of the genre. The movie is based on Kumail and his wife Emily Gordon’s life. While Kumail is a Pakistani-American actor and stand-up comedian, Emily is an American woman who has her own dreams and aspirations. But then Emily falls into an eight-day coma which upsets the scheme of things. Subjects of race, cultural identity and love are dealt with like a dream. FYI: The Big Sick has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet movie is essentially a romantic drama that also richly indulges in the genres of comedy and science-fiction. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of those movies that ‘gets’ to you because it knows it can. It is an extremely self-aware movie, thanks to a brilliantly-written script by Charlie Kaufman.

Joel (Jim Carrey) is a shy guy who likes to keep to himself, but when he bumps into Clementine (Kate Winslet), things begin to fall apart; first, in a good way, and then in a what-the-hell-is-happening way.

500 Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in a movie that claims out loud in its trailer that the film is not a love story. And as the film progresses, you realise that the movie is actually a love story and that Summer is the name of the leading lady’s character.

Tom wants to pursue a failed relationship with Summer, but she is just not into the idea. The movie follows a non-linear format, and Joseph Gordon Levitt excels as the miserable and sorry protagonist. Worth a watch.

Her

In an age where we are slowly turning to the virtual world to give us validation, to make us feel less lonely, Her is an important movie. After alienating himself from the rest of the world, Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore Twombly falls for Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), an intelligent operating system, who communicates through a human voice with the protagonist. Discussions around love and life form the crux of the movie. Her has been directed, written and produced by Spike Jonze. The movie also features Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and Amy Adams in pivotal roles.

Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is a gothic romance, where a young woman Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) falls for the quintessential mysterious, dark and handsome man Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). The two meet, fall for each other and tie the knot. But Tom is hiding something from his pretty bride, a diabolical plan and an evil sister Lady Lucille Sharpe (portrayed by Jessica Chastain). A dark fairy tale that delights and terrifies at the same time.

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