When I was in college, my first love and I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. With our arms wrapped around each other, we saw the film in love and in awe. Two months later, he walked out and I was devastated. I desperately wished I could make all the memories and the pain vanish. I thought I would never recover.
Ten years later, I (mostly) look back fondly on our time together. While that is in part due to the passage of time, I have no doubt that #EternalSunshine is also responsible. Having seen Joel and Clementine's story unfold time after time, I came to understand that erasing the past would not heal my heart; rather, I learned to turn it into the strength to move on and try again.
Whether it is your first breakup or the loss of a loved one, heartbreak can feel impossible to overcome. Though only time can heal this feeling, that does not mean you have to feel alone as you wait it out. While some people try to heal by crying into a tub of ice cream over a #romcom, science fiction films could provide a more thought-provoking, introspective way to cope. If you feel like testing this hypothesis, here are four sci-fi films perfect for the brokenhearted.
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1. Arrival (2016)
When mysterious spacecrafts appear across the globe, the US military recruits renowned linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to find the answer to a pressing question: What do they want? Perhaps more importantly, will the human race wait to find out the answer before taking drastic measures? Increasingly haunted by the loss of a loved one, Banks races to understand the alien language as the world begins unraveling around her.
Though you might not think #Arrival would incite reflections on life and love, that is exactly what it does. Despite the arrival of extraterrestrials on Earth, the planet-wide response to the event is the background of a narrative that focuses on Louise and her personal struggle. Arrival does not take us to meet a new alien race through the standard sci-fi movie means of #CGI and gadgetry; rather, it guides us through the exploration of our own concepts of grief, fate, time and compassion. While Louise seeks to answer the question of why the aliens arrived, Arrival asks us if the price of happiness, no matter how brief, is one we are willing to pay.
2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
Joel (Jim Carrey) is in the throes of his breakup with Clementine (Kate Winslet) when he learns that she has had her memories of their relationship erased. Looking to ease his own suffering, Joel goes to Lacuna, Inc., the source of Clementine's cleanse, and undergoes the same procedure. As his memories are being erased by Lacuna's techs Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood), an unconscious Joel realizes that he doesn't want to delete the memories of Clementine after all, and instead tries to save them.
Would you wipe your mind clean of all memories of a love gone wrong? Would you fall in love with someone if you knew it was doomed? These questions and more will linger in your mind as you take in the beautiful and all too real story of Joel and Clementine. A true labyrinth, Eternal Sunshine cuts between past and present, from beginning to end. As much of the film takes place in Joel's memory, the world takes on a wonderfully abstract feel that amplifies the emotional undercurrent. This is the most visually stunning movie on the list, telling a tale you would have to go to Lacuna to forget. Just remember, memories may fade, but feelings are an entirely different story.
3. Bicentennial Man (1999)
In the future year 2005, the Martin family purchases an android designed to be a housekeeper and general servant. The Martins soon discover that their android, whom they have named Andrew (#RobinWilliams), is experiencing glitches including signs of emotional awareness and independent, creative thought. The Martins foster and encourage Andrew's sentience, a choice that inspires him to grow and eventually fall in love. In a story that unfolds over two centuries, Andrew sets out to discover what it means to be human, from the miracle of love to the turmoil of loss.
Based on the short story The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov, Bicentennial Man is more reminiscent of Golden Age of Hollywood-style science fiction, rather than late-'90s #scifi. The film starts of innocently with lightheartedness, before maturing into a sentimental piece that asks us two questions: What does it mean to love, and would you want to live forever? Standing agelessly as the passage of time affects everyone he knows and loves, Andrew helps us appreciate our humanity and the inevitabilities of the cycle of life.
4. Her (2013)
In the not-too-distant future, a heartbroken Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) seeks to replace his loneliness with a newly released advanced operating system. Twombly quickly finds himself intrigued by Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the insightful, sensitive and funny personality that is the OS. As their relationship progresses, the two forge a new and unconventional romance that leaves Twombly questioning the reasons behind his failed marriage and his worth as a person yearning to be loved.
At one point or another, we have all been where Theodore is, alone and broken. A unique and compelling story, #Her is sure to remind you of the intoxication that comes with new love, along with the incomprehensible nature of loss. Like the other films on this list, this one tells its tale without a heavy reliance on technology and other expected sci-fi influences. Her goes beyond many other relationship-oriented films in that is looks specifically at the complex nature of modern relationships and how they function — or don't.
Which film do you think best help to heal heartbreak? Share your thoughts in the comments below.