"V-Day" is rapidly approaching which means a surge of cheesy romantic comedies and the need to survive the madness that is 50 Shades of Grey. For all the cynics out there, here are a few films to watch on February's most magical night that highlight the heartbreak, horror (and sometimes psychosis), of relationships...
1. Blue Valentine (2010)
We all knew this one was coming...
Released in the same year as Valentine's Day, Letters to Juliet, and two Nicolas Sparks films (The Last song and Dear John), Blue Valentine was a rude awakening to hopeless romantics everywhere. Chronicling the tumultuous relationship between a rugged high school dropout and a coy pre-med student, the film depicts all-too-real situations of love slowly fading over the course of time. Not to mention the actors were highly encouraged to improvise, naturally capturing the uncomfortable silences and heated conversations every couple has experienced. Perfectly accompanied by a haunting and broody score by indie band Grizzly Bear, many scenes leave you with a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach-- the way love sometimes does.
2. Like Crazy (2011)
With antics similar to Blue Valentine, Like Crazy is a story of college love that portrays the naivety of young, doe-eyed couples. While many films glamorize the notion of finding "true love" early in life, Like Crazy essentially sets out to prove how problematic it can be to blindly follow your heart. The honeymoon phase dissolves rather quickly, and the film kindly continues with an hour and a half of relationship obstacles that will leave you emotionally exhausted. With an annoyingly ambiguous ending, you will spend the next month questioning every romantic experience of your life: just in time for Cupid's day of magic!
3. Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl has taught audiences that when the love of your life appears too good to be true... they are. Nothing is more terrifying than realizing your entire marriage has been nothing but a sick illusion. Shedding light on the impossible standards we sometimes place on ourselves and our lovers, Gone Girl shows (in extremity) how this pressure can be too much to bear. Rosamund Pike brings the character of Amy Dunne to life in such a way that makes you damn sure you'll stay on the good side of any repressed housewives you meet. This film truly proves that sometimes love is, in fact, just a game.
Nothing says Valentine's Day like a lifetime of trust-issues ahead!
4. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Have you ever been ready to settle down and start a family with your husband, but it turned out he was part of a satanic cult? No worries, happens to the best of us. Rosemary's Baby is a classic for date night with its psychological terror, devious deception, and demonic sexual assault (you could try to salvage the romance by commenting on your beau's extraordinary eyes...). While the scares may lead to cuddly consolation and endearment, there is a chance you will never want to be touched by another human being again. Grab some popcorn and a sketchy Tinder date and let the odds play out!
5. Antichrist (2009)
Any soul familiar with Lars Von Trier's work can assess he is not one for the faint of heart and Antichrist is, without a doubt, no exception. If anything, the film is his most difficult to view with its traumatic and extremely explicit themes of sexuality, gender, and grief. After the unexpected (and avoidable) death of their child, the film centers upon the psychological effect the incident has on "he" and "she." While the story is unbearably painful in itself, the bizarre existential tangents Von Trier explores leave you with images so grotesque and unnerving you may even consider watching a David Lynch picture to lighten the mood.
6. Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Based on a true story, this Academy Award nominated Peter Jackson flick illustrates the obsession that can stem from a harmless "friend crush." What begins as an artful and whimsical story of a blossoming new friendship quickly spirals into a dark tale of infatuation, intensity, and revenge. For all the ladies without a special someone, this might be the anti-Valentine film for you! Gather the gal pals and enjoy a night in with fresh-to-Hollywood Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey. Perhaps the film will even be a pleasant confidence-booster when examining the functionality of your friendships and relationships.
7. American Beauty (1999)
Rose petals have become inadvertently associated with Sam Mendes' best picture winning American Beauty, yet there is little that is romantic about this drama of family affairs. Representing the insanity present behind the monotony of the suburbs, the film's precise timing of miscommunications and infidelities leave you wondering about the hidden desires of your own family members (something you do NOT want to be thinking about on Valentine's Day). Here's to love and the beginning of the end!
8. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Nobody does romance like Stanley Kubrick. Highlighting the dwindling marriage of a high-class couple, Eyes Wide Shut takes you on a twisted journey of the characters' most devious sexual fantasies. You might initially think this to be a fitting and titillating choice for a Valentine's Day feature until you are faced with the iconic scene of terrifying resonance: the masked orgy scored by backward Romanian chanting. Not to mention the film sparked the real-life romance between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman that ended in a steamy divorce. Let's hope it wasn't due to Tom's bizarre sexual escapades...
9. The Virgin Suicides (1999)
The haunting silences of any Sofia Coppola film are sure to make for a heart-warming evening, right? Virgin Suicides sets the standards of her slow-paced and natural storytelling with its continuous melancholy air. If the title wasn't weary enough, this mysterious story of 5 alluringly sheltered sisters, leaves you losing hope in just about everything. With death always a looming threat and bad boys ready to emotionally destroy you, the world of the film is just eerie enough to provoke a distress worthy of binge eating chocolate.
10. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
What would a list of misanthropic despair be without Darren Aronofsky's sleeper hit? Where most dramas build you up to let you down, Requiem let's you down...and let's you down...and let's you down until your soul becomes a black hole. The heartbreaking ending of the film isn't even a surprise considering that midway through you will find yourself asking "what could possibly go right for a group of desperate addicts longing for success and validation?" While a nice wine is a Valentine's Day necessity, viewers should stay clear of alcohol while indulging on this sorrowful flick.
After regarding any of these movies, do yourself a favor and give into the masses. A Richard Curtis double feature of Love Actually and About Time will raise your spirits and restore your shattered hope for love.