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Avery T. Phillips lists five prime examples of the changing faces of marriage, love and courtship on film over the past twenty years.

Every cinephile loves a good love story. Countless films feature a love story as its central plot, whether that romance has a happy ending, a tragic one (a la West Side Story), or is more ambivalent.

In the 21st century, anything goes when it comes to weddings, and marriage isn’t even the end goal for many movie couples. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest on-screen romances from the last few decades, most of which don’t fit into the mainstream idea of marriage and courtship yet leave a lasting impression on movie-goers.

 

Ed and Sandra Bloom (Big Fish)

In this 2003 sleeper hit directed by Tim Burton, we follow the adventures of Ed Bloom, whose charismatic storytelling merges fact and fiction. As Ed is edging ever closer to death, his son Will is treated to the story of Ed’s life, featuring a freak-show style carnival, a possibly mythical catfish, and the love of his life, Sandra, who was engaged to another man when Ed first met her.

It was love at first sight for Ed. “They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true,” he tells his son.

We understand the depth of their longtime love in a scene near the end of the film, when Sandra, fully clothed, joins her terminally ill husband in the bathtub, where he is “drying out.” She embraces him and seeks his comfort as she cries and sweetly tells him, “I don’t think I’ll ever dry out.” Her intimate declaration showcases her vulnerability and deep love for Ed.

 

Robbie and Julia (The Wedding Singer)

In the 1998 film, both Robbie and Julia dream of having a beautiful, traditional wedding ceremony, as well as the perfect marriage. They start off as friends, both engaged to different people. After Robbie’s fiance Linda leaves him because she envisioned herself with a rock star rather than a wedding singer, Robbie has a meltdown.

Julia is there to pick up the pieces, and Robbie helps her plan her wedding to Glenn, the womanizing stockbroker she inexplicably wants to marry. As they grow closer, the audience can feel the romantic tension between the two building up.

Robbie, who lost his passion for singing and songwriting along with Linda, is essentially brought back to life thanks to Julia’s attention. He writes her a sweet, romantic song, “I Wanna Grow Old With You,” which allows Julia to see that Glenn is completely wrong for her.

 

Sam and Suzy (Moonrise Kingdom)

The mind responsible for quirky modern classics such as The Royal Tenenbaums and Grand Budapest Hotel, director Wes Anderson is essentially the patron saint of hipster movie lovers and introverts. Those who have a tough time reading social cues at weddings and similar events will likely feel a camaraderie with Sam and/or Suzy, the young lovers at the heart of 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Both protagonists are 12-year-old, socially awkward outcasts, so they immediately connect with each other. When Sam asks Suzy to run away with him, she happily obliges. As their friends and family frantically search for the pair, they create their own private enclave where they listen to music, read stories to each other, and dance in their underwear.

While it might seem easy to dismiss the pair’s claims that they’re in love and want to get married (which they do near the climax of the film, in an on-the-fly ceremony officiated by a Scout Leader and paid for with a coffee can of nickels), the characters are refreshingly authentic and relatable.  

 

Charlotte and Bob (Lost in Translation)

Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut, Lost in Translation is hauntingly beautiful, with a refreshing and surprising love story at its core.

The film’s title refers to the fact that both Bob and Charlotte are essentially strangers thousands of miles from home. Bob is a formerly relevant actor in Japan to film a whiskey commercial; Charlotte, about two decades younger than Bob, is staying in the same Tokyo hotel. She’s an unemployed philosophy major traveling with her husband, a preoccupied fashion photographer who’s rarely by her side.

Charlotte and Bob meet at the hotel bar one quiet evening and quickly discover that they speak the same language — metaphorically as well as literally. Although both are married with lifestyles that differ drastically, they embody several of the five love languages as they spend increasing amounts of quality time together.

Inevitably, their time together must end, and their final embrace on a busy Tokyo street is accompanied by Bob’s words of affirmation whispered into Charlotte’s ear as tears run down her face. The audience is left to wonder what exactly Bob said, and the film ends on a note that’s equally uplifting and sad.

 

Ennis and Jack (Brokeback Mountain)

Themes of homosexuality in the media often come under scrutiny, and Brokeback Mountain received its fare share of harsh criticism upon release in 2005. In the film, superbly directed by Ang Lee, two young cowboys named Jack and Ennis are employed as sheepherders. Initially strangers, the two become closer and eventually fall in love.

Their taboo relationship ends after their summer on Brokeback Mountain, only to be rekindled four years later when both men admit they still have feelings for the other.

While the film was widely criticized for its subject matter, it was nominated for numerous high-profile awards, winning Best Movie — Drama at the 2006 Golden Globes. Lee also received the Best Director Oscar, and the film remains a trailblazing landmark in LGBT cinema to this day.

Big screen love stories can be captivating, timeless, and sometimes heartbreaking. Fans of every film genre can fall in love alongside a favorite movie character, and cry with them when that love is lost. Whether it’s the innocence of first love, or a steadfast love-at-first-sight moment that evolves into something more, the greatest love stories are those that resonate with moviegoers over the long-term.

 

Avery T. Phillips

Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.

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Posted on Oct 4, 2018

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