Anti-Valentine’s: 5 Movie Love Stories Without a Happily Ever After
Valentine’s Day is upon us again, and while many film fans will no doubt be drowning themselves in romances, from classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s to sop like The Notebook, there are those who avoid these films like a red-rose filled plague.
For those who aren’t into their happily-ever-afters, here are five movie love stories that don’t end with a couple waltzing into the sunset.
Though not an overall ‘sad’ ending, Pocahontas was something of a revelation for Disney as the Princess-type lead didn’t end up coupled up in the end. After starting a relationship, wounded explorer John Smith (Mel Gibson) must return to England for medical treatment and asks his Native American love to come with him, but she declines and instead stays where her people need her. I’m partial to the occasional Disney love story, but this was a refreshing move by Disney demonstrating that life isn’t all about finding Prince Charming (or Mel Gibson. But let’s not talk about that.)
With the tagline “this isn’t a love story, this is a story about love” it was clear that 500 Days of Summer wasn’t going to stick to the general conventions of a romantic comedy. And though it is very funny and actually very romantic in parts, it stays away from the notion of everyone getting a happily ever after and goes on instead to show the beginning and end of a 500 day meeting of two people. Though it’s slightly let down by its final scene (Autumn? Really now?) it gets major points for its creativeness visually, as well as playing with the fact that it’s the girl who’s struggling with commitment, surprisingly still quite a rare thing in cinema.
Though overall the film is an almost faultless look at ‘The American Dream,’ at its core lays the story of one wilted and damaged marriage. Kevin Spacey gives a career best performance as the man suffering through a midlife crisis (quitting his job, buying a flashy car and lusting over his daughter’s beautiful young friend) which is powerful yet always very funny. The struggling relationship between himself and wife Annette Bening is never resolved, as he is shot dead at the end, with a final few minutes that features stunning cinematography and a brilliantly written monologue. And if you must have a proper Valentine’s Day link, there are lots and lots of rose petals.
Over a decade after they starred in the (apparent) blub-fest Titanic, Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslett reunited for the less sentimental but – in my opinion – much better film Revolutionary Road. A young suburban couple in fifties Connecticut appear to be living the perfect life: marriage, money, kids but learn that they are far from happy. She’s given up her dream, he’s in a job he hates, they fight, they’re unfaithful and the illusion of the perfect life leaves them nothing. In the grimmest of ending, Winslett’s character April dies while trying to abort her husband’s baby. Not pleasant, but it has some brilliant performances.
Possibly my favourite Anti-Valentine’s film of all time, Blue Valentine almost plays like two films side by side. The first is a sweet, low key romance of two young people (Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, both excellent) falling in love, and the second is the disintegration of their now marriage into something toxic. The way the two stories are cut into each other works extraordinarily well, managing to be lovely to watch yet also full of some poisonous fights at the same time. And the downbeat ending gets better every time you see it.