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  • Writer's pictureAva Marie LaMonica

4 (Non-Cliché) Romance Films You Must Watch

For those movie buffs who tend to avoid romances, try giving these films a shot.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Romance films — you either love them or hate them. Those who dislike romance films may have a bad taste in their mouth because the immediate association is a sappy, love-at-first-sight, cliché story with a predictable and unrealistic ending.

I used to think that nothing could compare to films like Titanic and The Notebook (that’s a lie, that opinion still remains). However, these are five romance films that go against your mainstream everyday romance flick.


1) 500 Days of Summer

Photo from Free Wallpapers Blog

500 Days of Summer is a 2009 Rom-Com directed by Marc Webb and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the iconic Zooey Deschanel.

This film is told in a nonlinear format and follows Tom Hansen (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who reflects on his 500-day relationship with a girl he meets at his job at the office named Summer Finn (played by Zooey Deschanel).

The relationship between Summer and Tom is not quite your typical love story. In fact, some would argue that Summer and Tom were never truly in a relationship, to begin with.

Tom is head over heels for Summer and under the impression that she is the one. That is until Summer breaks up with Tom unexpectedly. During Tom’s period of depression and deep reflection, he tries to wrap his head around why his seemingly “perfect” relationship went south.

At the same time, Tom reflects back on the warning signs of Summer’s unhappiness that he overlooked because he was so blinded by his love for her.

This is a great example of a romance film that defies your everyday societal standards. Instead of a story featuring a couple mutually in love, this film highlights a couple whose love is unrequited but under the illusion of “perfect” through Tom’s perspective.

500 Days of Summer overall showcases a realistic love story that’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It reinforces the idea that the person who seems like the one very well may not be.


2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Photo from ScreenDaily

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a 2012 romance/drama/coming-of-age film directed by Steven Chbosky. He adapted the film from his 1999 novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which I also highly recommend).

The film is set in the eighties and focuses on a socially anxious introvert named Charlie (played by Logan Lerman) who journals his experiences throughout his freshman year of high school.

Charlie meets a senior who's gay named Patrick (played by Ezra Miller) and his stepsister Sam (played by Emma Watson) who include him into their circle of friends. These friends are different from the mainstream popular high school crowd. They are known as “wallflowers”.

As the film progresses, Charlie develops strong feelings for Sam. At the same time, he experiences the ups and downs of adolescence — love, heartbreak, drug experimentation, and the internal struggles of his depression which manifest through his high school experiences.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a film that’s far from cliché and perfect for those who wish to watch something that’s not entirely focused on romance. (It’s also perfect for fellow wallflowers).

Charlie and Sam serve as individuals who both come to terms with their past trauma and internal struggles, which strengthen their connection. This bond subconsciously lingers throughout the duration of the film. While most films only highlight romance through the relationship itself, The Perks of Being a Wallflower centers around Charlie, his self-development, and how his experiences mold him into the person he becomes.

It teaches the valuable lesson:

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
-Steven Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

3) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Photo from ScreenCrush

I was instantly drawn to this film for its beautiful, poetic title. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 sci-fi romance film directed by Michael Gondry. Now, if you’re not a sci-fi fan, don’t be so quick to write this film off. There are no aliens, monsters, or anything of that sort. If you’re more of the Black Mirror sci-fi type (like myself) this film might be for you.

This film stars Jim Carrey who plays the shy and introverted, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey playing an introvert!?), and Kate Winslet who plays the wild and extroverted, Clementine Kruczynski. The two opposites attract and enter a relationship for two years. After a messy and devastating breakup, Clementine receives a memory-erasing procedure (this is where the sci-fi comes in) to forget Joel. When Joel finds out that Clementine underwent this procedure, he follows suit and does the same.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind can be described as watching a dream — a nonlinear dream through Joel’s mind as he undergoes this procedure and lives through the past memories of him and Clementine. It is a love story in reverse. Through Joel and Clementine’s memory-erasing procedure, the film evokes the idea that memories, even bad, serve to teach us something and that erasing the pain of past love can rid of the happiness that also came from that love.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is Avant-garde, unique, and unlike any romance film I’ve ever seen. Joel and Clementine are two polar opposites whose differences both bring them together and tear them apart. Nevertheless, their love is intense, passionate, and powerful.


4) Gia

Photo from IMDb

And last but not least, Gia, released in 1998. Directed by Michael Cristofer, Gia is a romance/drama and serves as a beautiful representation of an LGBT love story.

Gia is based on the true story of the model, Gia Carangi (played by Angelina Jolie) who ventures out to New York City, to pursue her dream career of modeling. She meets agent Wilhelmina Cooper (played by Faye Dunaway) and with her help, she successfully rises to the top under Wilhelmina Models.

In the midst of Gia’s stardom and experimental drug use, she becomes madly in love with make-up artist, Linda (played by Elizabeth Mitchell), and their love intensifies throughout the film. As the film progresses, Gia’s drug use also intensifies, impacting her health, career, and relationship with Linda.

Unlike so many other films that tend to oversexualize same-sex relationships, Gia exemplifies a deep and passionate love story. Topics like stardom and beauty, drug use, and HIV/AIDS, are all entangled in the passionate relationship between Gia and Linda. If you’re looking for an intense, heart-wrenching, and non-cliché LGBT romance, give Gia a go.


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