Five films to freshen up Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and what better way to begin a night of romance than with a movie. But you’ve exhausted the classics—”Love Actually,” “The Notebook,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Fifty Shades of Grey.” This year it’s time for you and your partner to try something new. Here are five unconventional Valentine’s Day films to watch with your loved one Wednesday night.
For those who want a night out: Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis’s Reynolds Woodcock is a dressmaker. He’s demanding, set in his ways, and possibly on the low end of the autism spectrum (the tiniest noise can upset him and change in his routine is a catastrophe). One day he meets a waitress (played brilliantly by Vicky Krieps who stands toe-to-toe with Day-Lewis and deserved an Oscar nomination) and falls in love. Krieps’ Alma is as strong-willed as he, and when she finds herself dominated and dismissed by both Woodcock and his assistant sister she takes matters into her own hands to earn her place beside her man. The first hour of “Phantom Thread” feels derived from a 19th century marriage plot narrative—so much so you often forget the film is set in the 1950s. When a surprising twist hits midway through the jumps to greatness. “Phantom Thread” showcases a relationship rarely scene in film and will teach you to respect your significant other. (In theaters now.)
Romantic moment: “If you want to have a staring contest with me, you will lose.”
For those who love a little horror: Let the Right One In
Everyone loves a story about adolescent love, right? Ah, the memories. Holding hands, the first kiss, vampirism. “Let the Right One In” is the story of two 12-year-olds, one a bullied boy obsessed with murderers and the other a girl who has been 12 for hundreds of years. If you look past the gruesomeness, the film is more about loneliness and finding someone who will be there for you. Set in Sweden, it is subtitled and that may turn some people away. But if you can handle reading a movie and a little bit of gore, “Let the Right One In” is a beautiful story for a creepy Valentine’s Day. (Streaming on Hulu, available to rent on various services for $2.99)
Romantic moment: The boy comforts the vampire girl after she becomes ill from ingesting candy in an effort not to hurt the boy’s feelings.
For those who accept the realities of life: A Ghost Story
Let’s be honest. We are all going to lose everyone we love. So is there any better day to meditate on loss than Valentine’s Day? “A Ghost Story” focuses on the lives and afterlife of Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. One of the best duos in Hollywood, Mara and Affleck are a young couple whose marriage ends prematurely when Affleck is killed in a car wreck. We watch Mara move on while a sheet-clad Affleck lingers in their home as a ghost. The first half of “A Ghost Story” is a masterpiece, however the second half plays with time and becomes a bit messy. But if you can survive musician Will Oldham’s obnoxious halftime speech without putting your first through the screen, you’ll find your way back to the beauty that opened the film. Pay close attention to Daniel Hart’s wonderful score which was sadly neglected in this year’s Academy Award nominations. (Streaming on Amazon Prime, available to rent on various services for $4.99.)
Romantic moment: Thanks to Affleck and Mara not hearing the director yell cut, they share a prolonged series of affectionate kisses in bed while the camera continues to roll.
For those who want to laugh: The Big Sick
Imagine trying to reconcile a new relationship while your desired partner is in a coma. That’s the situation Kumail Nanjiani found himself in shortly after meeting his future partner in screenwriting and life Emily Gardner. Nanjiani plays himself in this autobiographical account of the turbulent beginning of their relationship, which escalates from a first fight to Emily slipping into a mysterious coma. While Emily spends half of the movie hospitalized, her parents (played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who gives an award worthy performance) step in and become surrogates in Nanjiani’s quest to repair the damage to his relationship with Emily. While this medical emergency takes place, he must also deal with his own family who are intent on him marrying a Pakistani woman. We know from real life everything works out in the end, but “The Big Sick” is a reminder that the work that goes into starting a relationship is a never ending process.(Streaming on Amazon Prime, available to rent on various services for $4.99.)
Romantic moment: That moment when you realize your partner is a human being and poops like everyone else.
For those who want a traditional love story: Brooklyn
Traditional may be a bit of a stretch, but it is love that motivates Academy Award nominated actress Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) in the end. A story of a young woman who heads to the United States from Ireland in 1951 looking for work, “Brooklyn” follows Ronan’s Eilis Lacey as she struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. This begins to change when she meets a young man at a dance. Just as their relationship becomes solid, Eilis receives word her sister has died. She returns to Ireland where family and friends expect her to remain, going so far as to set her up with work and an eligible bachelor. Eilis must decide if she will stay in Ireland or return to her new life in Brooklyn. Ronan runs the gamut of emotions with ease, from homesick fish out of water to happy young love, to how she interacts with her Irish friends and family when she returns home much more an adult than when she departed. “Brooklyn” is a moving story that will have you denying tears to your partner on several occasions. (Available to rent on various services from $2.99-$3.99.)
Romantic moment: When Eilis’s boyfriend asks his 8-year-old brother to help him write a love letter.
What will you be watching on Valentine’s Day? Do you have an unconventional suggestion? Share your picks with us in the comments.