I Really Like Romance Dramas, So What?

Disclaimer: I’m a jock (do people still use that word?) that is passionate about sports and attempting to reenact Entourage scenes with my childhood friends. And yes, I not only appreciate a worthy tearjerker but also thoroughly enjoy many of them. In this day and age, I shouldn’t have to clarify that from the get-go. However, prevailing stigmas usually pin masculinity and romantic drama-type films on opposite ends of the spectrum. Why? We’re all emotional beings that strive for the same things in life: love, friendship, loyalty, and respect, to name a few. But let’s save the mush for a little later…

Film has and always will play a huge part in my life. I’m not related to any directors, producers, actors, screenwriters or Hollywood executives (although being a producer is my dream job). The closest familial tie that I have to the industry is my cousin who is a creative consultant that builds trailers for feature films. Nonetheless, because I had no TV in my bedroom until college, a great deal of family time consisted of dinner followed by movie night (and not much has changed to this day). From a young age, I became enamored by the creation and depiction of intricate, yet compelling stories. Specifically, I reveled in stories that I could personally relate to and those that elicited strong emotional connections. Much like people turn to books to escape and become inspired, I utilized film to feel alive, galvanized and, in a way, more cultured. My film tastes are eclectic and expansive, with horror as the only genre to fall into the “hell no” category. But, unlike my brother who developed a preference for sci-fi/dystopian films, I gravitated more towards films focused on unique human interest stories, both real and fictional (a forgotten genre in the age of action, superheroes and special effects).

For some context, a few of my favorite movies include The Count of Monte Cristo, Gladiator, Shawshank Redemption and Lion. It may seem odd that a kid with minimal on-the-surface problems would connect to these types of narratives. Well first, nobody breezes through life unencumbered — we all have our issues. And second, I’ve always had this profound interest in understanding people — what makes them tick and how they overcome adversity to find happiness. I’m aware that film isn’t always a realistic illustration of this “journey”. It is both hyperbolized and romanticized to play with the deepest of heartstrings. Nevertheless, a satisfying film will portray what we all seek, feel, and experience on a daily basis. Heartbreak, redemption, jubilation, reticence and embracing change, no matter how difficult. It has always been pretty fascinating to me.

So now that my “type” has been established, it’s not hard to see why rom-coms/dramas fit the criteria. To further support my aforementioned thoughts, the following are five romantic dramas that have really resonated with me (in no particular order). If you’ve seen them — great. If not, get on it! Also, please note that The Notebook is not included because if you don’t like that movie, you’re un-American:

1. Crazy, Stupid, Love— CSL (2011: Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone)

First and foremost, let’s address an undeniable truth: every guy wants to be Ryan Gosling. Women swoon over him, he’s married to Eva Mendes, and he generally exudes a humble, chill vibe. These facts, coupled with a role in CSL as a serial womanizer with GQ-type fashion, induce some serious man crushing. This movie is on TV every other day and I still can’t get enough of it. Without spoilers, it’s the story about middle-aged man Cal (Steve Carell) who, according to Jacob (Ryan Gosling), “loses sight of who he is as a man, husband, and probably lover” after his wife asks for a divorce. Therefore, Jacob takes Cal under his wing and effectively teaches him how to regain his confidence around women. However, Cal is unaware of how their paths would cross in the most unexpected of ways and how the eventual courtship of his soon-to-be ex-wife would turn into a roller-coaster ride. This film features timely humor, fantastic acting and solid storytelling that is both poignant and entertaining. It depicts how relationships can develop and unravel when you least expect it but, if it’s real, it can be salvaged. Furthermore, it advocates for and stresses the importance of openness, compromise and acceptance in friendships, romantic relationships and family life. Plus, Emma Stone is adorable.

2. The Vow (2012: Starring Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams)

So there are relatable romantic dramas and then there’s The Vow. It’s unlikely that you and your significant other will get into a car crash, with one of you losing all memory of being together and only recalling being engaged to the ex-boyfriend (knock on lots of wood, possibly the entire forest). Once you accept that part of the film, it will reward you with life lessons and likely a tear or two. This movie follows music producer Leo (Channing Tatum) as he desperately attempts to make his wife not only remember him, but also fall back in love with him. To be completely transparent, this film is pretty sad; but, its arc epitomizes the idea of the “journey”. Paige’s life before Leo consisted of law school, being engaged to a businessman and a normal family dynamic. Yet, in their time together, Leo helps Paige both realize and execute on her passions, leaving her past life behind. Leo must do everything over again — first dates, living together, wooing her and helping her rediscover her true identity. This film demonstrates the idea of committing to your “vows” and fighting for that special person against all odds. It’s a touching story that embodies loyalty, patience and possibly the ultimate sacrifice.

3. Me Before You (2016: Starring Sam Claflin, Emilia ‘Khalessi’ Clarke)

Me Before You is a film that effectively weaves tragedy, despair, anger, hope and eternal love/appreciation into a clear, concise story. It’s easily the biggest tearjerker of the group; but it has taught me that any and all personal relationships can be boundless as long as we are open-minded and receptive to imperfections. The story revolves around the quirky, unconventional relationship of quadriplegic Will (Sam Claflin) and his full-time caretaker Lou (Emilia Clarke). Will suffers an unthinkable tragedy and is relegated to a wheel-chair with no feeling from the neck down. Understandably, he is dejected, resentful and generally unpleasant to be around. In a far-fetched attempt to raise his spirits, his mother hires Lou, a vivacious, cheerful girl with no caretaking experience. The relationship between Will and Lou predictably starts off slow, but they show immense growth both individually and collectively as the movie progresses, culminating in an ending you won’t forget.

4. Begin Again (2013: Starring Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine)

Begin Again is a wonderfully crafted indie film that documents an all-too-familiar theme: heartbreak, followed by personal reinvention that leads to an improved and more in-tune sense of self. Overlay that with original music and you’ve got me hooked. Gretta (Keira Knightley) is part of a singer/songwriting duo with boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine). They are signed by a major record label in New York and, together, make the move to the Big Apple. Dave is the singer and “face” of the duo, while Gretta is the behind the scenes lyrical wordsmith. However, the honeymoon phase in New York quickly dwindles as Dave becomes bewitched by his newfound fame. His new lifestyle has no room for Gretta, leading to the aforementioned reinvention period. Eager to “begin again” as a solo artist, Gretta performs an original song at a bar, where former record producer Dan (Mark Ruffalo) discovers her and convinces her to remain in New York. Equally down on his luck as a disgraced producer, Dan and Gretta work together tirelessly to create her first solo album, which will hopefully change both of their fortunes. I loved this film because it showed how not every relationship or friendship is meant to be. Often times, letting go and starting anew leads to new, unforeseen opportunities for growth and happiness. Moreover, life sometimes forces you onto the road less travelled, but it’s the journey and the learning process that makes you a stronger person in the long-run.

5. Midnight in Paris (2011: Directed by Woody Allen, Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams)

Last, but certainly not least, is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Despite issues surrounding his personal life (an unfortunate shot to his legacy), there is no denying that Woody Allen is an extraordinary filmmaker. He continuously churns out original and time-agnostic narratives that feature his idiosyncratic directorial style. Midnight in Paris focuses on the journey to personal enlightenment for Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a successful Hollywood screenwriter and aspiring novelist. Gil is engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams), who both travel to Paris alongside Inez’s parents. From the start, it is clear that Gil and Inez have that lust, but are ultimately two very different people. Gil feels as if he has “coped out” by becoming a screenwriter and not exploring his literary passions, while Inez is a materialistic woman focused on money and titles. One night, Gil decides to take a walk after a night of wine tasting, hoping for inspiration that he could channel into his new novel. Unbeknownst to him, that would be the first in a series of events that would change his life forever. To avoid spoilers, I’ll leave the synopsis at that. In a nutshell for me, this film represents the idea of knowing yourself through personal experiences and not being afraid to find your own way. It’s about reinvigoration and not shying away from the tough choices, which enable us to find and hold onto friends/partners with similar views, lifestyles and interests.

Overall, film is truly an amazing art form. With that said, I’m not afraid to admit or expound on my interest in romantic dramas, rom-coms or any other genre. Art as a whole is incredibly subjective; yet, it is universal in the way it manipulates our emotions and transports us into new, exciting realms.