Pop Chronicle: 5 Unconventional Romantic Movies

Jared Bentley • Updated Jan 29, 2018 at 5:54 PM

Valentine’s Day. Whether you love it, hate it, or simply believe it to be an advertising ploy to sell cards and chocolates, it’s here. And if it is going to be here, and the western hemisphere is going to celebrate it, you might as well make the most of it, right?

And while making the most of it, maybe you want to invite someone special over for a movie during the week, but you don’t want it to be just any movie. You want it to stand out a little, to stand apart from the overplayed, insipid romantic comedies churned out by Hollywood on a mass scale.

That’s where the latest Pop Chronicle hopes to help. I’m listing 5 Unconventional Romantic Films you might want to try watching before the holiday. Or whenever — they’ll be fine for any time of the year.

Safety Not Guaranteed:

20 years ago, Backwoods Home magazine ran a joke ad in the back of one of their issues. It read:

WANTED - Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

That’s the basis for Safety Not Guaranteed, only the movie suggests the ad is real, and placed in a local Washington newspaper classified section.

A writer at Seattle Magazine decides to write a story about the ad, requesting the help of two interns, and the plot is afoot. Aubrey Plaza plays one of the interns, who follows Jake Johnson’s writer to find the man who posted the ad, who turns out to be the wonderfully talented Mark Duplass, who makes the most of Derek Connolly’s inherently charming script.

Colin Trevorrow, who went on to write and direct Jurassic World, allowed this small budget indie to survive on story and dialogue, rather than concentrating at all on any time-travel effects, and the “can he or can’t he” story line pays off big in the end.

True Romance:

Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, True Romance is a dark, romantic comedy with a heavy dose of violence mixed in. It is a Tarantino script after all, so the violence is expected. What is not expected, though, is the wonderful chemistry between Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, who both give the performances of their careers.

Supported by a cast that includes Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, James Gandolfini, Brad Pitt, Michael Rapaport, and a host of other Hollywood legends, True Romance has been a favorite of mine since it opened.

From the moment she spills her popcorn on him, you are rooting for them to succeed. The story veers left and right, and no one is the movie is a conventional hero or villain, but that doesn’t stop you from hoping the two young lovers find their place in the sun, on the sand, and in each other’s arms.

Only Lovers Left Alive:

Jim Jarmusch makes movies that develop very, very slowly. His films are a testament to his storytelling, in that audiences will allow the mood to develop without complaint, and this film needs the time.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton’s “Adam and Eve” are vampires, and despite being apart for years, they love each other. It’s not a conventional love, or an overly passionate love, it seems to be a love borne of necessity. Having been alive for decades, if not centuries, the couple are not your average movie-trope vampires — they don’t feed on the living, they don’t have supernatural powers, and they don’t relish in their immortality. They stay home, embracing and enhancing their love of music and art and literature, and simply want to live and love.

The abundance of time and contemplation, however, has left Hiddleston in an almost-catatonic, depressive state. As Jarmusch films are wont to do, Only Lovers Left Alive will leave you either satisfied and fulfilled, or perhaps in the same depressive state our protagonist endures. This is not for the faint of heart.

Eagle vs Shark (also Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do In The Shadows):

Taika Waititi was well known for his quirky New Zealand humor, killer soundtracks, and awkward lead characters long before he took over the Thor franchise, and if you want to laugh uncontrollably at funerals and vampires and “swearwolves,” Waititi is the director for you.

For a wonderful romantic movie, though, I suggest his earlier film, Eagle vs Shark.

Jemaine Clement and Loren Horsely are Jarrod and Lily, two awkward New Zealanders who find each other somewhere along the road of nunchucks, justice, and revenge. The inventive script and amazing performances of the two leads create a perfect romance for anyone who ever felt less than perfect, and a testament to the power of love and the wonder of the human spirit.

Sing Street (Once, Begin Again):

My favorite music movie of all time is Once, from director John Carney, starring the immensely talented Glen Hansard. Once is an almost-perfect date movie, and one that has no sex, no kissing, and no real romance between the leads. What it does have is heart, more than any other film you’re likely to see. Carney followed that up with the wonderful Begin Again, with a huge cast of famous people making great music — but it seemed stale. Too many stars seemed to change the whole feel. And then he made Sing Street.

Sing Street took him back to his original recipe of untrained actors, unfettered joy, and unbelievable sound. The young actors of Sing Street play off one another as though they were seasoned pros, and the music flows through them in much the same way. The story of young love and sacrifice is universal, and you can’t help but cheer for Conor and Raphina in much the same way as you would any other star-crossed duo of Hollywood’s golden age.

A wonderful supporting cast, a superb script and story, and a once-in-a-lifetime speech from big brother Jack Reynor make Sing Street worth watching. The songs make it worth watching over and over and over again.

There are plenty of offbeat romantic films to choose from, and there should be something for everyone to find a little joy. Harold & Maude, Amelie, Secretary, Juno, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Delicatessen, Lars and the Real Girl — those are just a few that come to mind. If you’re like me, and you like your romantic movies to offer more than mere romance, take the time with one of these films, or several of these films. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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