Five Unlikely Romances for 2011’s Valentine’s Day
Ahhh… how we don’t really care about Valentine’s Day, especially when our selection of films at the cinema contains such vapid productions as the unoriginally titled Valentine’s Day last year. Obviously, we are supposed to put together lists that deal with love-related themes, such as On-Screen Couples, or a list of the Best Romantic Movies… or *gasp* a list of the Best Romantic Comedies — whatever your thoughts on rom-coms are.
The usual suspects? Many seem to love Love Actually — though that one is more Christmas-y than V-Day — and Richard Curtis seems to be good at dishing rom-coms like Bridget Jones’ Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral.
When thinking of great romances, we think of classics like Casablanca or Gone with the Wind, or new contemporary classics like Amélie, 3-Iron or Chungking Express… or slightly bizarre picks like the unusual couple in Let the Right One In.
Some are impressed with the way (500) Days of Summer dealt with relationships, and some others just fall for the epic cheese romance that was The Notebook. There’s something for everyone… and here are five picks~
5. Love Letter
Also known as: ラヴレター / RABU RETA- / Letters of Love
Director: Shunji Iwai
After the death of her fiancé two years earlier, Hiroko Watanabe seems unable to move on. At the spur of a moment, she decides to send a letter to him in Heaven at his old address back when he was in high school. To Hiroko’s surprise, she receives a response from a woman who shared his same name and was classmates with him.
It is in Shunji Iwai’s understated visuals and mastery at evoking emotion that make this romantic drama so heartbreaking. It also has a lot to do with actress Miho Nakayama playing a dual role. It’s probably my favorite of this list, but it’s also the least approachable unless you like the stillness of Asian dramas.
Watch out for that snowy shot in the mountains and that famous “お元気ですか? / o-genki desuka? / How are you?” that will totally make your Valentine~ 
4. Love Me If You Dare
Also known as: Jeux d’Enfants
Director: Yann Samuell
Even though Yann Samuell did mess up one of the films on this list in an American remake, he did deliver a high on LSD dark romantic dramedy. In Love Me If You Dare, Julien and Sophie meet when they’re kids and start a game of dares that escalates into a dangerous activity that will only end when they finally admit what they feel for each other.
Samuell’s style here is whimsical, hinting at Jeunet’s Amelie, but shows us some of the most wicked ways to show our love for each other. There’s crude — but charming — jokes, sex, a car chase, an explosion, a lot of dark unusual heartbreak… and loads of love.
3. My Sassy Girl
Also known as: 엽기적인 그녀 / Yeopgijeogin Geunyeo
Director: Jae-young Kwak
My Sassy Girl, which was remade under the same name in America in 2008 by Yann Samuell mentioned above, is probably the mother of modern rom-coms in Asia. It deals with a pretty goofy guy who meets a very difficult girl — some say that’s sassy. We follow them as their not-a-relationship develops into something else.
The relationship works in here due to cultural differences. Somehow it is kind of funny seeing Korean pretty girl Gianna Jun being loud, opinionated, and sometimes drunk. It is hilarious seeing funny guy Tae-hyun Cha being chased after his mother when he’s not home on time.
Though often classified as a romantic comedy, the relationship between Jun and Cha’s characters develops into a very dramatic arc that makes this rom-com quite the drama… like all Korean romances are. Ha!
2. Were the World Mine
Director: Tom Gustafson
In a small narrow-minded town, young Timothy feels trapped in his life as he is in love with one of the members of his school’s rubgy team. When the drama teacher casts him as Puck in the school’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timothy discovers the recipe of a magical potion that would make anyone fall madly in love with someone.
Chaos spreads as he turns everyone in town gay.
No, dear homophobic readers, this is not a horror film. Let me just say that Were the World Mine is a wonderful romantic dramedy with touches of a magical musical. And it’s got happy endings for everyone! Perfect for Valentines!
1. Show Me Love
Also known as: Fucking Åmål
Director: Lukas Moodysson
And the number one pick for feel-good movie romance for this year’s Valentines is the Swedish teen rom-com Show Me Love — pure American cheese for American titles who can’t handle the word “fucking”.
Fucking Åmål is a coming of age teenage romantic comedy that follows Elin, a popular girl desperate to grow up and get out of that town (Åmål) to become a model, or so she says. Elin just wants to get the hell out of there, the sooner the better. Then there’s Agnes, not popular at all, highly sharp, and madly in love with Elin.
The film is not an over the top dark drama about girls going wild (a.k.a. Thirteen), but quite a realistic look at two young girls with identity and boy/girl trouble. Plus, the ending is of pure sweet chocolate-y goodness.
Thoughts, comments? Have you seen any of these? Any suggestions?