If you’re reading this, it probably means you don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day.
Obviously, one’s relationship status and plans on Valentine’s Day directly affect one’s longterm prospects for love. Maybe not, but that’s no reason not to drown your sorrows in chocolates from a heart-shaped box you bought yourself at Walmart. Good news: You can eat them all and buy a refill at clearance price tomorrow!
And if you’re resolutely celebrating Single’s Awareness Day instead, keep in mind that its acronym is “SAD.” Please see my previous comment about chocolates and drowning sorrows. If a pint of Ben and Jerry’s is the closest you’ll come to a date tonight, consider watching one of these to distract yourself from thinking about all those happy couples out there. Just don’t forget the Kleenex. (Some spoilers may be below. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
“Romeo and Juliet.” Ah, perhaps the most classic tale of love and tragedy. You can go with the 1968 classic, the weird one from 1996 where Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes try to pull off a modern-day setting with the Bard’s original lines, or go for one of the versions inspired by the tale, such as 1961’s West Side Story. I say pick the one you find most tragic.
“Titanic” (1997). If you want to see Leo die but aren’t quite up for rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter, “Titanic” is a good bet. Not only is it loosely based on actual events, so you can say you’re learning about history, but watching Kate Winslet promise she’ll live and let go before pushing her frozen love to the bottom of the sea? So sad.
“Ghost” (1990). Because nothing kills a couple’s happiness faster than untimely death. What makes this story of romance cut short even more touching is the efforts we, the audience, get to see of Patrick Swaze’s character protecting and continuing to care for his love after death, but knowing that they can never be together.
“Somewhere In Time” (1980). Of course, death isn’t the only thing that can keep a couple apart. Sometimes it’s something as silly as being born in the wrong century that can throw a wrench in the works. In what becomes a tragic cycle, Christopher Reeve travels back in time, where he meets the lovely Jane Seymore, only to be thrust back to his own era when he remembers he is from the future, which prompts her to wait for them to meet when she is an old woman and after he is, you know, born. And then the whole thing starts all over again. And it possibly goes around and around like that forever, with them never actually living happily ever after.
“The Notebook” (2004). Does it still count as getting together if it turns out that one of them doesn’t remember that any of it happens? Through the storytelling of the old people, we piece together the love story of Noah and Allie — only to find out that the old lady is actually Allie, but she has Alzheimers and can’t remember any of their epic romance! No! You could watch virtually any Nicholas Sparks movie instead of “The Notebook,” but Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Gardner and Gena Rowlands really elevate this one above the rest of its sappy peers.
“Casablanca” (1942) and “Becoming Jane” (2007). The dual listing by no means suggests I place these in the same cinematic hierarchy, but the romantic tragedy in these two films is the same — two people, perfect for each other, are driven apart by circumstances and a certain amount of choice. Whether it’s Anne Hathaway telling James McAvoy the guilt and irresponsibility of elopement would eventually kill their love in addition to harming their families, or Humphrey Bogart urging Ingrid Bergman to stay in her loveless marriage for the purpose of ending a world war, the result is the same: Heartbreak. Out of Jane Austen’s grief we got “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Persuasion”; “Casablanca” gave us classic lines like “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” so everybody wins.
“Life is Beautiful” (1997). Possibly the film that will reduce me to a blubbering mess more effectively than anything else, “Life is Beautiful” has a princess, a pauper, whimsy among turmoil and fear, astounding bravery and the most heartbreaking “happy” ending ever. Plus, it’s in Italian. What could be more tragically romantic than that?
“(500) Days of Summer.” Finally, if you want a reminder of just how exhausting relationships can be, and if you want to experience the elation of love and the plummeting, crushing despair of heartbreak, is this ever the ride for you. Jostling between the early stages of the relationship and the aftermath of its end, “(500) Days of Summer” is a distressingly realistic emotional rollercoaster, especially since virtually everyone has been (or will be) both a Tom and a Summer at some point. And yes, it looks up at the end, but I, at least, have never felt like the actual ending was as good as the one we were all hoping for. Just like real life, which is what makes it so sad.