THE FILMS THAT SHAPED LOVE FOR ME

THE FILMS THAT SHAPED LOVE FOR ME

Feature photo courtesy of @ Vox.com

How these 6 films helped me figure out how to love and be loved.


CHLOE XIANG


*Author’s Disclaimer: This article will have spoilers about the movies discussed. 

Like many young people, I have never been “in love”. The closest to this heart-warming, tear-evoking compound I have been is as a viewer of on-screen romances. However, it is through the same passive position, lounging on my couch or laying on my bed in front of a screen, that I have realized: I am always loving, I am loved, and I will be loved. Through being a first-hand witness to intricate relationships, unfiltered and dramatized through the means of entertainment in films, I have been able to grasp the complexities of love Films have allowed me to see and feel love in a condensed and impactful manner, teaching me through empathy how love is not so far removed from my reality. 

Marriage Story (2019)

Marriage Story taught me the importance of learning to prioritize self-love. Zooming into a couple, Charlie and Nicole’s, nasty divorce, Marriage Story shows the unraveling of a relationship when one side of the relationship becomes more valued and prioritized than the other. The film opens and ends with a letter that each of them has written about the other, describing all the little details they love most about each other. Although Charlie and Nicole care about each other immensely, both before and after their divorce, the film highlights that self-love should reign above all. Nicole describes that in their marriage, Charlie “didn’t see me as separate from himself” and “I didn’t belong to myself.” As an actress working under Charlie, the director of his own theater company, Nicole never had a say in her career. Although she gave Charlie many creative ideas, it was ultimately Charlie who took all the credit, who made them live in New York City because his theater company was based there. Their marriage drove Nicole to make decisions that put Charlie and his movie theater before her needs and desires — sacrificing her autonomy for the sake of sustaining their vows. Ultimately, a bitter legal battle over residency, custody, and finances liberated Nicole from her husband’s control. Though she had lost companionship through the divorce, Nicole was able to gain something truly invaluable: self-worth and self-appreciation. Finally able to speak for herself, Nicole transformed through her divorce, finally moving to Los Angeles to push her career forward and no longer using her career as simply a tool for her husband’s success. Nicole’s story helped me understand that despite the feel-good nature of romance, remembering to love myself first is much more valuable and essential to life.  

The Notebook (2004)

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The Notebook taught me that true love will overcome any obstacle - that those who are meant to stay in your life will. The Notebook features the love story of Allie and Noah, a couple that has nearly everything up against them. Allie and Noah first fall in love in the 1940s, but Allie’s wealthy upper class standing and Noah’s working class status causes Allie’s parents to be extremely opposed to the match. While Noah fights in WWII, Allie becomes engaged to another man, who is more financially “worthy” of her hand. However, before her wedding day, Allie goes to find Noah and ends up leaving her fiancé for him. At the end of the movie, we see that although they’re now living in a nursing home, Allie and Noah are still together. Despite having dementia, there is a moment in which Allie remembers him again and Noah reminds her that “our love can do anything”. The Notebook reveals love as a transformative power that transcends all logic and reasoning, that goes beyond a binary of right and wrong. Although it may often be seen as unrealistic or irresponsible to pursue true love, love can often drive you to overlook any sense of responsibility and practicality. But as shown through the end of The Notebook, it is worth it, to give up your inhibitions for a lasting love that makes sense out of a cruel world. 

The Farewell (2019)

The Farewell shares the story of a young Chinese American woman, Billi, whose grandma has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, rather than tell her grandma, Nai Nai, the tragic news, Billi’s family decides to put on a decoy wedding for Billi’s cousins in an attempt to gather the family together one last time before Nai Nai’s passing. Throughout the film, the news of Nai Nai’s diagnosis is clearly very difficult for each of the family members. While they try to put on a brave face for her, cooking for her, talking to her, and watching out for her, each of the family members inevitably has a private emotional breakdown. However, no matter how hard it is to keep their emotions in check in front of Nai Nai, each of the family members makes sure they are doing whatever it takes to keep her happy. The Farewell showcases the power of familial love. While lies are conventionally portrayed as malicious, the white lie so delicately preserved in The Farewell is rooted in selflessness, with the desire to make a family member happy in her last days stronger than any sort of comfort gained from being able to tell the truth. For Billie and her family, deception is the love language that allows them to cherish the love they have for each other and celebrate life in a way that can focus on the good even when there is something inescapably tragic along the way.

 

Blue Valentine (2010)

Blue Valentine revealed the reality of romantic love - which is that it is often ever-changing. Blue Valentine examines couple Cindy and Dean’s failed marriage by exploring their relationship leading up to it. After meeting her once, Dean persistently chases after Cindy and when she finally gives in to going on a date with him, the two fall instantly in love. However, as the song Dean sings while on the date ominously predicts: “You always hurt the one you love”. Later, as a married couple with a child, they are constantly at ends with each other - always arguing and sleeping separately. The movie concludes with Cindy demanding for a divorce, followed by photos of them while they were still dating. While their marriage ultimately fails, Blue Valentine highlights the beauty of the romance they did have. Although the film contrasts their past relationship to their present turbulent relationship, the film isn’t necessarily trying to analyze where they went wrong. Instead, Blue Valentine is a beautiful celebration of love and learning to let go of that love when it naturally dissipates. Rather than trying to resuscitate something that can no longer be rescued, it is important to recognize that love doesn’t always last forever but it is incredible to once have felt it. 

Little Women (2019)

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Little Women centers around Jo, a teacher and author living in the 1860s. While she is remembered as a talented writer and caring sister and daughter, her experience with love is equally important to examine. Jo’s neighbor, Laurie, falls in love with her and asks her to be with him. However, she immediately rejects him. Jo believed their personalities would clash, but more importantly, Jo didn’t truly love him. What Jo loved more than him was her own independence, saying: “I love my liberty too well to be in any hurry to give it up.” Jo couldn’t bear to imagine becoming married to someone of such high societal standing — with Laurie being wealthy and elite — and especially couldn’t live being known just as Laurie’s wife. When Laurie goes abroad, he encounters Jo’s sister, Amy, who had secretly loved Laurie her whole life. Laurie, being turned down by Jo, falls in love with Amy and they get married. Meanwhile, Jo harbors doubts about her rejection of Laurie - wishing she had said yes to him, because she enjoyed feeling loved despite not truly loving Laurie. Ultimately, Jo ends up with her colleague Friedrich, a professor she met after moving to New York to become a teacher. He is someone who is noticeably more suited for her personality and genuinely appreciates her work as a writer. Being loved can almost be a trap - we feel comforted and are often blindsided by that experience. However, Jo’s story shows that no matter how good it feels, we need to be patient and find mutuality in the love we decide to invest in. Jo felt that by being married to Laurie, her personhood would be overpowered by his wealth and her expected duty to him. When she decided to be with Friedrich, her individuality flourished rather than diminished. It was by following her heart that Jo was able to find someone who she didn’t belong to as a wife, but someone she could share her intellect with and someone who she could grow alongside. 

Last Night (2010)

 

Last Night follows married couple Joanna and Michael, both of whom are tempted by other love interests. While Michael ends up cheating on Joanna physically - sleeping with another woman during a work trip, Joanna cheats on him emotionally by spending time with her ex-boyfriend. However they each return without speaking about what they had done, while they try to tell each other they still love one another in an unspoken attempt to solidify their relationship. Although on paper it seems dirty and deceitful to hide things from a significant other, the film illustrates the psychology in unfaithfulness and displays the raw and realistic external temptations that many people face in any relationship. Last Night reveals that love isn’t necessarily confined to a singular person or entity— with both Joanna and Michael continuing to love each other, but also finding love in the people around them. Rather than condemning these actions, Last Night reveals that love is complicated in a way that actions are not simply measured as wrong or right. In Joanna and Michael’s cases, there was no moral conclusion that “cheating is wrong.” In fact, the ending is ambiguous, because we don’t see if they confront one another, in order to show that love can be more complicated than breakups and makeups. Love is displayed as something that doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, because even non-fairytales can still result in “happy endings”. 

 

 


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