At The Gryphon Arts & Culture, we have hand-picked the most romantic films from around the world for you to swoon over this Valentine‘s Day.
- Queen (2014) – Hindi
Though Bollywood may be known for its all-singing, all-dancing romantic spectacles, Queen breaks with convention in more ways than one. In just the first few minutes of the film, the fanfare of the wedding preparations gets brought up short by heroine Rani being dumped by her fiancé just a day before their wedding. But instead of wallowing in her sadness, Rani feels the need to escape, and decides to go on her honeymoon trip around Europe by herself. It’s far from smooth sailing, however, as she runs into one disaster after another. Taken under the wing of the effortlessly sexy Vijaylakshmi in Paris, Rani learns to step, hop and jump out of her comfort zone, taking on a newfound independence rarely found in your standard Bollywood heroine. An ode to female friendship, empowerment and self-love, this film is perfect for your Galentine’s night in!
2. Whisper of the Heart (1995) – Japanese
An outrageously underrated masterpiece from the renowned Studio Ghibli, Whisper of the Heart is an impeccably romantic and evocative piece to tug at a myriad of heartstrings. It follows the story of curious, hilariously impetuous high-school student Shizuku Tsukishima, who finds herself far less preoccupied with the looming responsibility to study with her finals on the horizon than with the mysterious figure who has the audacity to check out all her favourite stories from the library before her. The discovery of the identity of the elusive Seiji Amasawa initially provokes a relationship which is competitive and snarky, but in a very similar vein to Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, this soon paves the way to a deep-rooted affection that leads to profound questions of not only what it truly means to love but what it means to be worthy. For anyone struggling to realise themselves and moreover how to properly channel their emotions, this film proves just the outlet for any sense of confusion and lacking in direction, the indescribable perfection of the animation and soundtrack creating what is an irreplaceable coming-of-age narrative for lovelorn existentialism.
3. Atlantics (2019) – Wolof
An ethereal blend of romance, longing, and the occult, Mati Diop’s feature debut is not one to be missed. Set in Senegal’s coastal capital, Dakar, this initially seems to be the story of two star-crossed lovers, but soon strays further from the many Romeo and Juliet rehashes we’ve seen countless times. Enchanted by the promise of a better life in Europe, young construction worker Souleiman takes to the sea in the dead of night, leaving behind his lover Ada, who must wrestle with his departure just days before her wedding to a wealthy man. Despite being grounded in Dakar’s gritty reality of exploited workers, inequality and the refugee crisis, the romance in Atlantics soars above all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Escapist though it may be, this film has all the heart, sweetness, and melancholy that you could want in a Valentine’s film.
4. Jongens (2014) – Dutch
This story of a teenager who struggles to come to terms with his burgeoning love for a fellow member of the athletics club is perfect for those who are repulsed by the sickly saccharinity of February 14th. It‘s slow-paced, understated but never loses its emotonal driving force. Although the relationship isn‘t always plain saling, the raw tenderness of first love is masterfully captured and cuts right to the heart. By the end of the film, it‘s not plot twists or special effects that stun the viewer but the unfeigned ups-and-downs of a romance founded on an internal struggle.
5. Hasee Toh Pasee (2014) – Hindi
Hasee toh Phasee does not initially present itself as the type of love story to be so relatable, but it is, in fact, one of the most wholesome, impassioned and impressively sensitive love stories Bollywood has put to the silver screen. The magnitude of the narrative is inspiringly understated, as the conglomeration of cheesy musical numbers act as a red herring for a story essentially concerning love amongst the concerns of drug abuse and mental health. Indeed, Meeta (Parineeti Chopra) may provoke laughter with her eccentric energy, ingenious intellectuality and penchant for making Nikhil‘s (Sidharth Malhotra), her brother-in-law to-be‘s, life strewn with disaster and difficulty, but it is their desires for understanding and individuality which actually craft a relationship with subtle warmth and emotivity. The hilarity and minimalism of the film only makes the journey Nikhil and Meeta take towards one another all the more rewarding, Hasee toh Phwasee being a unique twist on the classic will-they won‘t-they as the romantic leads strive for wholeness and a life outside familial expectations and the suffocating normativity favoured by society.
6. Amélie (2001) – French
Undoubtedly a modern classic in the canon of world cinema, this is a film that never fails to charm with its whimsy. Starring Audrey Tatou in the title role of a quirky doe-eyed waitress on a one-woman quest to spread happiness to those around her, Amélie will turn the staunchest of cynics into romantics and dreamers. Through Amélie‘s imagination, we see the gorgeous Montmatre streets through the lens of a warm, nostalgic glow. And what better place to spend Valentine‘s day? Paris: the city of light, the city of lovers.
Photo Credit: Upperstall