Cheesy Hollywood movies about grandiose love stories would have you believe that if you fall for someone, then your loyalty and affection will never end. Either it’s meant to be and everything will be perfect, or someone just not the one. According to this belief system, finding your true love is challenging, but loving itself is easy.
The internationally acclaimed German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm didn’t agree: “Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice,” he wrote in his book, The Art of Loving. If the most saccharine of holidays is starting to get to you, here are five sobering – some would say more realistic – portrayals of human emotion.
This dramedy starts off with a cute boy-meets-girl scene: Joe, the charming bookstore manager, helps Beck, the pretty graduate student, find a book. After their encounter, Joe checks her social media profiles, leading to a dark twist that “takes the horrors of modern dating to hilariously morbid extremes.”
2. The Room (2003)
Boasting a dedicated following akin to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this incoherent melodrama about love triangles, infidelity, chickens and throwing footballs is among the most unintentionally funny films ever created. A cult classic ever since its release, its disjointed dialogues, awkward and long sex scenes and ridiculously substandard acting have launched writer, director and producer Tommy Wiseau to dubious stardom, making him an Ed Wood for our time.
3. Blue Valentine (2010)
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play Dean and Cindy, a likeable couple whose misguided actions have turned their loving relationship into a quietly devastating emotional wasteland. At first, you may root for them to fix their problems, but by the end, there’s no denying that their break up is long overdue.
4. Marriage Story (2019)
A cautionary tale about how love can turn sour, this star-studded vehicle features Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple going through a painful divorce. A slow-motion train wreck that’s impossible to look away from, it poignantly shows how constant compromise can foster resentment.
5. Paradise: Love (2012)
Directed by Ulrich Seidl, this drama takes on female sex tourism, following an Austrian middle-aged woman on vacation in Kenya, where she seeks the companionship of a strapping young man to fill the emptiness inside her. Brutal and unflinching, it shows how the sex trade doesn’t always play out like classic prostitution, and intimacy, kindness and attentiveness can be commodified as well.