Regardless of its genre, many notable movies still revolve around relationships. From Spiderman to Iron Man to Up and even The Conjuring, the plot begins and ends with the same premise: love.
“Love is the force that makes us fully human,” says renowned academic/author David Suzuki. Indeed, without the presence of love, we are but hollow shells. This abstract subject, impossible to disassemble or reconstruct through calculations and formulas, has the uncanny ability to affect the shallowest and deepest of our emotions. It can be blissful, devastating, mundane or at times, even frightening.
When we immerse ourselves in movies that speak of love, the characters’ feelings are projected onto our own – we become involved. Our eyes fill with tears when they cry. We feel our heart twisting when they’re upset. Simultaneously, romance can evoke laughter and sorrow, warmth and hostility. And yet, it can be overwhelmingly accepting of our differences, allowing the glow of affection to outshine any negative thoughts or perceptions.
Sound of Life brings you a lovingly curated list of films that illuminate the many means and methods of how romance can be felt in our lives.
Over the course of 18 years, Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) meet up every July 15th to commemorate the day they first met. We watch as they progress from university students unsure about their futures, to adults struggling to launch their careers and juggle multiple responsibilities. Some years are good, some leave more to be desired – but in the end, their lives intertwine yet again. We think the dialogue in this film is what makes it even more special: it’s witty but not overly so. “She made you decent…and you made her so happy” is a line that we enjoyed immensely.
Love doesn’t only have to be shared between two living beings, like the Japanese man who married a Hatsune Miku hologram. The technology of today provides convenience in terms of communication, but its high degree of uthanizedn can result in false realities for some. Lonely and introverted Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) purchases an AI virtual assistant, which names herself as Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). As time passes, they bond over discussions about love and life, ultimately culminating in an unconventional romance. However, he’s heartbroken to find out that he is not the only one – as a hyperintelligent OS, Samantha has been talking with thousands of people, in love with hundreds of them.
Based on a novel of the same name by Makoto Shinkai, Your Name is the third highest-grossing anime film of all time, raking in over US$380 million and breaking box office records. Mitsuha, a high school girl from a rural town, finds herself switching bodies intermittently with Taki, a boy from Tokyo. Waking up as each other on some days, they eventually learn how to communicate with each other within this strange space. As they gradually begin to forget each other’s presence, they realize that they are separated not just geographically, but also by time – a three-year gap in between changes things drastically when a comet threatens to destroy Mitsuha’s hometown…
Learning to embrace our emotions, whether positive or negative, is truly one of the biggest lessons life has to teach. Set in the summer of 1983, American graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) accepts his archaeology professor’s invitation to stay with his family for six weeks in Northern Italy. The professor’s 17-year-old son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), offers to show him around. As they spend more and more time together, they inexplicably become attracted to each other in a fleeting but passionate romance that unfortunately has no happy ending. “How you live your life is your business. Just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once, and before you know it, your heart’s worn out…Right now, there’s sorrow, pain; don’t kill it, and with it, the joy you’ve felt,” advises Elio’s father as the young man grieves for love lost.
The excruciating pain of a breakup is something all of us feel at least once in our lives. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes the aftermath of a breakup and explores an alternative in a style that’s reminiscent of a fever dream. Following a painful split, Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey) undergo an extreme procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But love is a strange thing; slowly realising what made them fall in love to begin with, they attempt to find each other again – “You can erase someone from your mind. Getting them out of your heart is another story.” Widely adored for its visual style, musical score and whimsical script, this one’s a cult favourite.
Can a woman love a monster? Set in 1962 at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute cleaner who communicates through sign language. A humanoid amphibian creature is brought to the lab, and Elisa begins to secretly visit him. They form a bond, and she hatches a plot to help him escape after finding out that he will soon be euthanised. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water is highly recommended for its stunning cinematography and visual effects. Considerably more mature than his other works like Pan’s Labyrinth or Pacific Rim (which cater to a broader audience of different age ranges), the film received 13 Academy Awards nominations, 7 Golden Globe Awards nominations, and 14 Critics’ Choice Awards nominations.
Sometimes, love finds you when you least expect it. Silver Linings Playbook gives a realistic look into the lives of people living with mental health issues, and how they navigate love, just like everyone else. After spending eight months in a psychiatric facility, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is learning to live a more structured and optimistic life, which he calls “silver linings”. At a dinner party at his friend’s house, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a newly widowed young woman. They start talking about the many ways they are trying to manage their respective mental illnesses in the pursuit of becoming more “normal”, and in the process, fumble into a relationship that keeps getting interrupted by each other’s struggles.
Director Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy – comprising of Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013) – is an indie classic. Void of a fast-paced plot, the films instead focus on thoughtful monologues and extended dialogue between Céline (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke). These dialogues are really what makes the trilogy shine and what makes them so relatable: through the casual yet deep sharing of perspectives on life, self-discovery, loss, and more in the different decades of their lives. The three films were filmed in nine-year intervals, and it’s a real treat to see how the two characters and actors evolve yet stay grounded throughout the years.
When La La Land came out, it caught the world up in a dance – there had not been a musical film of its calibre in a long, long time. Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) meets jazz pianist Seb (Ryan Gosling) at a party and love soon follows. Mia continues to pursue her acting dream, while Seb finds a job as a keyboardist in a pop band, even though his true passion lies in jazz. As their careers take centre stage, their relationship takes a backseat. Many years later, a chance encounter allows them to reminisce the “what ifs” had the circumstances been different. The dream sequence in the ending is a beautiful juxtaposition between reality and fantasy, leaving the viewer a little sad and wistful of missed opportunities that could have been.
Out of sight, but never really out of mind. When C (Casey Affleck) is killed in a car accident, he awakens as a ghost. Covered in a sheet with two cutouts for eyes, he walks home, where his wife M (Rooney Mara) is having a hard time coming to terms with his death. While its title seems rather ominous, A Ghost Story is not a horror movie, but instead, a poignant tale of how life goes on after losing the one you love. We see what it’s like from a ghost’s point of view, why houses become “haunted” (hint: emotional distress and jealousy affect spirits just as much as they affect humans) and learn how closure plays a crucial role in helping someone move on.
Cover Credits: Annapurna Pictures / Photo 12 / Alamy Photo Stock
Writer | Michelle Tan
Having spent the past decade turning her passion into profession, Michelle is a freelance writer/translator based in Malaysia. Her lifelong dream is to become an urban hermit.