When I finished integrating this list of the best romantic movies of the decade —partial and subjective, like all of them— I realized that there are few films that indulge the fantasy of monogamous relationships like a tree where invincible love blossoms. In real trees, the fruits and leaves fall at some point: some because they ripen, others because they wither, but there is no denying their intense flavor, their vivid colors. Perhaps loving, like living, is an inevitable failure. Maybe not, but no matter what we find out, the intensity of love is an indestructible pleasure.
In the stories listed below, we will see how some of the greatest contemporary filmmakers observe the path of gazes that go from recognizing something new and warm to wanting to ignore what has already cooled. Sometimes romance films are more optimistic, but the rule is that they seek the complexity of the love bond with others or even with ourselves through an extraordinary mastery of cinematographic language.
More importantly, they are all intense reflections on the act of loving; to settle down and let go. I hope you enjoy agreeing with the list – which takes into account romance films made from 2010 to date – or disagreeing with it, but above all: I hope you enjoy the films themselves.
Faithful copy (Dr. Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
In itself the cinema of the Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami it’s mysterious. Although there is clarity in his themes, his films are inhabited by the variety and unpredictable nature of reality. However, in true copy we see something more strange: at the same time unfold, or perhaps a couple of actors practicing their dialogues, or perhaps different spirits inhabiting their bodies. Sometimes the couple that stars in this film seem to have known each other forever; sometimes not. At times they love each other, sometimes they can’t stand each other anymore. It is irrelevant to understand their behavior because what is really significant about this film is its changing and strange image of a relationship, which is identical to love itself.
Laurence Anyways (Dir. Xavier Dolan, 2012)
the obsession of Xavier Dolan, apparently, is to be adored, but in this film the Quebecois director focuses on the difficulties of loving oneself and continuing to love someone who, defying all the rules, has decided for the first time to show himself as he really is. The story follows a man who suddenly discovers that there is a woman inside. Dolan is unusually compassionate towards both her and her girlfriend and discovers not only the consequences of the social norm, but the difficulties of abandoning it. Despite a somewhat excessive duration,Laurence Anywaysit is an important film for our time and an expressive story about resistance.
Taboo (Dir. Miguel Gomes, 2012)
In essence, this film from the Portuguese Miguel Gomes It seems like a melodrama like any other: in the 1960s, just before the revolutionary movements in Africa, two young Portuguese men fall in love and live a doomed relationship. However, Gomes does his best to show us that if this story is told in such an idealistic way, it is because it is not narrated by him, the director, but by one of his characters. The sound becomes a key to discover that nostalgia is just the fabrication of an old lover.
She (Dir. Spike Jonze, 2013)
In other romance movies, no one has ever said “I love you” to a device as seriously as the protagonist of this romance film. Spike Jonze. Impeccably played by Joaquin Phoenix, Theodore is a lonely guy after his divorce and therefore decides to buy asoftwarethat simulates a virtual assistant. Over time they both fall in love and from then on Jonze explores loneliness, illusion and the tragic needs of a world where everything can be bought. Scarlett Johansson deserves a separate mention for her portrayal of the software: we never see her, and yet she is a presence that one would swear organic and tender.
The life of Adèle (Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
In many ways, this film Abdellatif Kechiche –which was plunged into controversy after the leading actresses’ comments about the “humiliating” working conditions and his negative when asked if they would work with the director again– seems to me the definitive love story of the century: not only because it happens between two women in the middle of a homophobic society nor because it unravels the mechanisms of attraction as only a great psychologist could, but because of its courage to document —although it is about a fiction—the entire universe of a girl who discovers her sexuality, love and the mistakes of growing up. It is also, thanks to Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, one of the great achievements of acting so far this century.
You might also be interested in: The best love movies of the 21st century.
Before Midnight (Dir. Richard Linklater, 2013)
While it seemed that the previous films in the trilogyBeforehad covered all the possibilities in a romance between a Texan and a French woman, Richard Linklater shows in this last part that you can always –and should– add something: the difficulties. Without losing the optimism ofBefore dawn(1995) andBefore sunset(2004), the film explores what success, coexistence and family imply between two young people who one day woke up together, turned into adults. Maturity, the film seems to tell us, is a point of crisis but also one of reunion.
Glory (Dir. Sebastian Lelio, 2013)
The film that launched Chilean director Sebastián Lelio to international stardom is the story of two loves: one, the one that Gloria, the protagonist, begins to feel for a man and that helps her cope with her loneliness; the other is the one that is not capable of feeling for itself. His struggle to reconcile both –or to choose just one of them– delineates an intricate and varied character, almost real, that would not be the same without the interpretation of Paulina García.
Carol (Dir. Todd Haynes, 2015)
YesThe life of AdeleIt is the story of a maturation,carol, by the formidable American filmmaker Todd Haynes, is the story of a seduction. From start to finish, the characters of Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are stared at by the camera as they look at each other. Avoiding the obvious, we are rarely shown what they are observing because what Haynes seeks to contemplate is the reaction provoked by the object of desire. Set in the 1950s, the film brings back elements of Douglas Sirk and his heir, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, to make a plot of forbidden love one of the great moments in American cinema today.
45 years (Dir. Andrew Haigh, 2015)
Heir to the realism of Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz, Andrew Haigh does not show us the crisis of a marriage celebrating 45 years together with the usual melodrama pyrotechnics. On the contrary, it is in a grayish and intensely silent environment that Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay question the validity of marriage vows that hide a ghost. Meanwhile, Haigh explores memory, forgiveness, old age, and the relationship each of these elements have to taint what should, in theory, be a joyous occasion.
Paterson (Dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2016)
Perhaps the story of a poet who composes his greatest work inspired by the space and the poem he inhabited —invented?— William Carlos Williams does not promise romance, but in the tender relationship between the protagonist and his wife we find an ideal image of love . Although it is not a “love movie”, it does present a portrait of him that is worth noting. He is a bus driver in the city of Paterson in New Jersey; she, a home artist who exhibits in her home renovations the same creativity that he does. When tragedy strikes, she is his refuge and his hope. Romance or not, it is also important to say thatPatersonis one of Jim Jarmusch’s greatest films.
You might also be interested in: The best romantic comedies of the decade.
The Phantom Thread (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
Love is not only the meeting of two freedoms that feed each other. It can also be the struggle for control of the other. Paul Thomas Anderson illustrates it as the latter in the story of a dictatorial fashion designer who finds in a young waitress not only his muse and lover, but also – and perhaps most of all – his nemesis. What begins as a romantic movie soon turns into an unusual war film and a brilliant critique of the institution of marriage and gender roles.
Ghost Story (Dir. David Lowery, 2017)
An essay on time and nihilism, this film by David Lowery is also an image of mourning, remembering and abandoning a lover who has died. I don’t remember anyone eating a cake with as much anger and melancholy as Rooney Mara in one of the most beautiful images of the film. Nor do I remember eternity represented in such a naive and lasting way.
A beautiful inner light (Dir. Claire Denis, 2017)
WhatGlory (which is also part of this list of best romance movies of the decade) this is another film about a woman who finds her own love, but a stranger and perhaps more forceful. Based onFragments of a love speech, by linguist Roland Barthes, this film by French teacher Claire Denis –and starring Juliette Binoche in one of her biggest recent roles– explores the life of an artist trying to find love in others. However, based on discussions whose context we do not know, she finds the difficulties of being loved, even by herself, and the need to dance alone.
Call me by your name (Dir. Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
Directed by the Italian Luca Guadagnino, this film is not a political portrait of homosexuality, and perhaps it is not even a complex investigation of attraction. Instead, it is a magnificent portrait of beauty and pleasure. Its plot presents a classic infatuation –in the most Greek sense– between a young man and a teenager, both attractive ephebes, in the sensual Italian countryside. Throughout the footage we will see them listening, playing and dancing to evocative music, eating exquisite dishes or sunbathing with absolute ease. more than a moviecall me by your nameit’s a vacation.
An inseparable love (Dir. Michael Showalter, 2017)
This Michael Showalter film, written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, is the least subversive of the bunch but also the most humorous and heartwarming. Based on the real relationship of its writers,an inseparable loveis a romantic comedy that achieves an intelligent representation of a modern love: among the themes diversity, tradition, migration and death are crossed but, of course, its ultimate goal is the shock of its viewers, who, perhaps embraced someone who loves them, they would do well to see her on Valentine’s Day.
The entry The best romantic movies of the decade was first published in Cine PREMIERE.