Hollywood is not always about happy endings. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
If this Valentine’s Day finds you reeling from a relationship gone wrong or stewing about a heartbreaking ex, and you’re scarcely in the mood to spend Thursday watching others live a lie of true love, here are 10 anti-romantic films from this millennium worthy of your companionship and adoration.
High Fidelity (2000): John Cusack wooed women as hopeless romantic Lloyd Dobler in 1989’s Say Anything. More than a decade later, Cusack’s neurotic music dweeb Rob Gordon in High Fidelity is more true to reality: less perfect boyfriend and more imperfect soul who obsesses over a recent ex. To learn why she broke up with him — and therefore what he must do to win her back — Rob solicits the opinions of former girlfriends who dish on why their relationships failed.
Lost in Translation (2003): Scarlett Johansson, in her big-screen breakthrough, plays the abandoned young wife of a self-absorbed celebrity photographer (Giovanni Ribisi). Bill Murray is an aging actor with a fading career and loveless marriage now making commercials in Japan. The pair meet in a Tokyo hotel and later bond over relationship troubles, generational and cultural differences, and finally share a secret whisper and a kiss as they sadly part. Lost in Translation was inspired by writer-director Sofia Coppola’s own marriage woes with director Spike Jonze.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): Joel Barish (Jim Carrey, spot-on brilliant) wants memories of his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet, equally brilliant) erased from his mind, just as she did to him. In Charlie Kaufman’s script, such technology exists to do just that. But wiping away all traces of intense personal connection is complicated, as love’s attraction proves more powerful than even the memories it creates.
Broken Flowers (2005): Murray is quietly moving as an aging Lothario who goes on a cross-country journey to meet five former flames he suspects may be the mother of a 19-year-old son he’s never met. Jim Jarmusch’s dark comedy is full of twists, bottled emotions, and strong empathy for lives unfulfilled and dreams unrealized.
(500) Days of Summer (2009): As the film’s narrator tell us at the beginning, “This is not a love story.” Indeed, this is the funny-turned-tragic tale of the one who got away. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are perfectly cast as the love-struck guy and the hard-to-get — and even harder to keep — girl who consumes his affections and ultimately shatters his heart.
Crazy Heart (2009): Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a broken-down, hard-drinking country musician who meets a young, pretty music journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who falls for the once-famous but still charismatic singer-songwriter. She reluctantly lets him into her world, but theirs is a relationship as doomed as the love songs he writes and sings. Bridges played the country music cliché to Oscar-winning acclaim.
Blue Valentine (2010): In this dissection of a decaying relationship, Ryan Gosling is a charming boyfriend-turned alcoholic husband and screw-up who desperately wants his failing marriage to work. Williams is the loving girlfriend-turned tolerant wife-turned long-suffering spouse whose patience and love are irrevocably broken. Their gripping performances make the couple’s emotional dissolution all the more crushing.
Barney’s Version (2010): In this odyssey of personal failure, Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) is a politically incorrect schmuck given three chances at love who destroys each relationship in different ways. But karma proves peculiar in how it metes out justice, and Barney’s fate and that of the woman he loves most, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), proves surprisingly tragic and warmly human.
Like Crazy (2011): Director Drake Doremus’ striking film, loosely based on his own experiences, perfectly captures the problems and heartache of long-distance romance and the wrenching emotional pain shared by a couple (Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin) who refuse to acknowledge when their love is no longer there.
Take This Waltz (2012): Michelle Williams deserved an Oscar nomination as a young housewife named Margot who risks her happy marriage to an adoring husband (Seth Rogen) to pursue her giddy crush on a handsome neighborhood artist. Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley, Take This Waltz doesn’t reward Margot’s decision of the heart, offering instead the blunt reality of “So now what?”
Contact Kirk Baird at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.