An oh-so-sweet line from Be My Valentine,Charlie Brown goes somewhat like this: I am just very fond of the ground that she walks on. The she adoringly mentioned here is a class teacher,and a heart-shaped box of chocolates is procured for her. The fact that she doesnt even notice the gift and,by extension,the giftee,is crushing: its Valentines Day,after all,the day designated for all lovers,and to be ignored on that day can assume life-threatening proportions. But Charlie Brown plasters a smile on his face and soldiers on,because love is always around the corner,isnt it?
Some love stories are not just celebrated on one specific day of the year: they are eternal,undying. And the lovers dont necessarily have to be in the first flush of youth. They could be dead,or getting their second wind,or may have to part after their first meeting,but you know,just as they know,that what they experienced is something magical.
When faithful wife and mother of two grown kids Francesca Johnson loses her heart to weather-beaten photographer Robert Kincaid,you can tell that something like that has never happened to her. Her children discover that the love of her life was not their father,a steady,reliable man,nor the two of them; they shared her with a man whose existence they had no inkling of. And they make this discovery after shes dead. Part of her will is the request that they disperse her ashes from a bridge in Madison county,not too far from where she lived all her life,and where the lovers felt a connection stir for the very first time.
The Bridges of Madison County is whats sometimes derisively termed a mature love story,because both protagonists are in their middle age. But when Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood get together,you can feel the heat come off the screen: younger screen lovers can learn a thing or two from these vets who burn it up. Their love is as much about physical proximity as about the fact that they find they can talk,really talk to each other,the way they cannot to another soul in the universe.
Watch Streep again in Falling in Love,this time discovering another kind of love,this time with Robert De Niro. Its an early film,and both look very young,and very in love: both are married,have spouses who are understanding and nice,fight their feelings,and fail. This is a love that sometimes sneaks up on you,when you are not looking. Frank and Molly meet on a commuter train,in a book shop,in a coffee shop,and then they realise that they are not content with casual once-in-a-while meetings. They want it all,but cant bear to hurt their partners,so they part. And in true Hindi film style,meet again. Its snowing,its Christmas,and its that same bookshop,all over again. And this time it is for keeps.
And sometimes it is not to be,but it is still a forever thing. Broke reporter Joe Bradleys chancing upon a young girl passed out on a Rome street at night and lucking into the biggest story of his career,makes up the plot of one of most enduring Hollywood romances. Roman Holiday,shot in glorious black and white,and entirely on the streets of Rome,teams up two of the best-looking people in Hollywood,and gets them to fall in love. He is a commoner,she is a princess,and never the twain should have met,but for her desire to be free,to have fun and some excitement. She finds all this with her knight-in-journalistic-armour who picks her up and carts her off to his apartment,and then discovers who she really is.
Audrey Hepburn is supremely soignee,Gregory Peck is impossibly handsome,and Rome is picture-book pretty. All perfect,even after so many years.