Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Best Of...Alternative Romance

We all know those soppy heart-warming romantic films...well to counteract the merriment I have compiled a list of 21st century cynicism. ENJOY.
1) Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)

This is actually my favourite film of all time! Not only is the narrative beautifully composed but it touches upon the instability and frailty of human relationships. The synopsis follows like this: After a painful break-up, a couple undergo a radical new procedure to erase each other from their memories, yet it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with. 

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is a shy emotionally-withdrawn man, who lives a bland existence in a one bedroom apartment, downtown New York. It is not until a random encounter on a train with the erratic flame-haired beauty Clementine (Kate Winslet) that things start looking up. Having been instantaneously drawn together by opposing personalities the two embark on a tentative romance yet unbeknownst to them they have already been lovers. Month before, after a messy fight, Clementine had approached the 'Lacuna' agency, who offered her a radical procedure to erase her memory of Joel. Heartbroken, Joel decided to do the same meaning much of the narrative is told through a surreal series of his memories, as they are being slowly erased. Upon seeing happier times of love with Clementine from earlier in their relationship, he struggles to keep her memory alive as the procedure wreaks through his mind.

Eternal Sunshine is something special for is remarkably sweet without being mushy or unrealistic. The acting is so fluid and convincing that is actually make you really pine for the two characters to find one another again. There are some wonderfully surreal moments within Joel's memories that are both humorous and deeply moving. Although the narrative in non-linear and can be confusing when jumping through big clumps of time, those who enjoy slightly unusual, almost anti-realist films will enjoy the dream-like quality to the flashbacks.
2) 500 Days Of Summer (2007)

The tagline reads  'Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't'. From this alone we should gauge that this is far from the usual optimistic tale of boy meets girl. Hailed as the definitive anti-rom-com, this deliciously indie venture jumps from various days within the 500-day span of Tom and Summer's relationship. Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a greetings card designer is an optimistic 20-something living in New York. He longs to find the one and believes he has found her when he spots the beautiful free-spirited Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel)- a fellow whimsical oddball and avid fan of The Smiths. Unfortunately for Tom, Summer doesn't believe in true love and seems to go out of her way to avoid getting attached to anyone. However, despite her inital reluctance over the passing months the two are drawn together and the film jumps to and fro through the various stages of their relationship from day one (the awkward first glances) to the soul-crushing 500th day (where ties are finally severed).

It is interesting to note that the film was what the industry liked to call a sleeper hit meaning it was an overnight success, unknowingly launching the careers of it's two young leads (evidence- Joseph was recently in the Hollywood blockbuster Looper alongside Bruce Willis while Zooey soon landed the lead role in New Girl, which is now in it's second season). The chemistry throughout between Joseph and Zooey is so perfect as they bounce off each other so naturally (for a while I was wishing they were a couple in real life!) making the film such a pleasant delight, despite its sad moments. A must-see for any fans of independent and alternative cinema...or for those (like me) who fancy the pants of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (he is the ultimate cutie).
3) Blue Valentine (2010)

Ahhh a film to bring the mood right down. Blue Valentine is one of the films that has stuck with me the most. It charts the counter-development of a young urban couple's relationship (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) from the jittery first days of courtship to the eventual breakdown of their marriage years later. Like 500 days, the film is non-linear meaning it skips randomly to different times in the relationship. As the film begins we see the disequilibrium and the frustration that exists between the couple...we get the sense that the passion has been lost between them. The husband Dean (Ryan Gosling) is an unambitious college drop-out, who despite his faults and laziness, cares deeply for his wife and their young daughter. His wife Cindy (Michelle Williams) is a worn-out hardworking nurse who struggles to juggle the stress of work, along with the pressure of keeping her husband happy.

Both Gosling and Williams give performances of a lifetime with unusual power. Although many scenes are difficult to watch and can be deeply upsetting the overall product is profound and will leave a lasting impression. The reason I believe it deserves a place on this list is because despite the overall depressive tone, there are some beautifully sweet moments during the couple's earlier years that truly lift the film, thus (in my eyes) making it worthy of the 'romantic' drama label.
4) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Finding love two weeks before the apocalypse is hard. man. Although the film divided critics, I watched this last week and actually really enjoyed it! As the title states the world will be crushed by an asteroid in a months time. While anarchy and street crime is rife all around the world, life for Dodge Peterson (Steve Carrell) pretty much continues as normal. His maid still comes to clean his house, and he still goes to work (as an insurance ironic). However the appearance of a young British girl names Penny (Keira Knightley) crying at his windowsill, changes his life forever. They forge an unlikely friendship and subsequently decide to take a road trip to reunite Dodge with his high school sweetheart, before the asteroid hits. On their travels they encounter a whole host of colourful characters and crazy scenarios, all of which are delightful and unexpected. 

While some have been critical of the age gap between Carrell and Knightley's characters I feel this is slightly unfair as it is the quirkiness of the romance that blossoms between them that felt like the film's strongest was brave and unconventional. Nevertheless a romance set during the apocalypse was inevitably going to end on a sad note and the final scene did give me a little wobbly tear, at the edge of my eye. For that reason, it made it on this list.
5) Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Yet to see but it sounds amazing! Has anyone seen it and loved it? Comments are always welcome! :)

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