Seeing as my last post on foreign language films was surprisingly well-received, I thought I'd write another one. This time the focus is on the romance genre, which is undoubtedly a favorite of mine. It's a genre that translates well into other languages. It is, after all, a universal phenomenon. I have seen countless romantic foreign language films over the years but these are the ones that, for whatever reason, stuck with me the most. Once again, subtitles are EVERYTHING. Watch these films in their original language and you might just pick up a romantic foreign word or two to impress your significant other with.
1. Germany: What a Man
The name Matthias Schweighöfer has, over the past few years, become almost synonymous with the German romantic comedy genre. I'm always down for a good German rom-com, so if you're looking for a cute, light and hilarious film to watch this weekend, I recommend you give this one a go. What a Man (2011) is about Alex, a 30-year-old man, who is cheated on by his girlfriend. In search for answers as to why his relationship failed, he moves in with his friend Nele. Now, name one film where this kind of situation do not lead to love and other disasters. Call it predictable, call it cliché, call it whatever you want to call it but don't tell me this film won't put a smile on you face, because it will. As a person who generally is not the biggest fan of German humor I can promise you, What a Man will make you laugh. Out loud. Bonus points for the great soundtrack.
2. South Korea: A Millionaire's First Love
I first discovered all that East Asia had to offer in 2005 and I've been hooked ever since. South Korean films are definitely sadder, more dramatic, and, here and there, over the top but all the more addictive. That said, these films also often revolve around sickness, as does A Millionaire's First Love (2006). I chose this one because it's one of the first Korean movies I saw. It's romantic, it's a little cheesy and it'll have you trying to hold back the tears. Hyun Bin stars as the stereotypical rich kid, who transfers to a new school in a small town, and it is here that he meets Choi Eun-hwan. They don't hit it off but ultimately start to bond, to then fall in love. Eun-hwan's illness puts the 'drama' in 'romantic drama' and soon both are fighting for a life together. This definitely won't be the best Korean movie you will ever watch but it is a cute and uplifting film.
3. The Netherlands: Alles Is Liefde
Here is one thing you need to know about Dutch cinema: there is big love for ensemble films. In fact, most commercially successful Dutch films are just that. Alles Is Liefde (2007) is my favorite Dutch movie of all time. Foreigners might find the film a little strange at first because it centers around Sinterklaas, a traditional Dutch phenomenon you could compare to Santa Claus. Hence, the comparison to Love Actually is often made. The film's plot is difficult to describe, and so a mere sentence or two won't do it justice. Set around Sinterklaas, it follows the lives of a handful of people; families, couples and individuals, during the eventful days leading up to the big occasion they're trying to save. Starring household name Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones), this feel good film is utterly heartwarming, fun and the perfect introduction to Dutch humor!
4. Taiwan: Hear Me
This is a special one because there is hardly any talking in this film. Hear Me (2009) is about Tian-Kuo, a delivery boy, who falls for Yang Yang, a young girl taking care of her hearing-impaired older sister. Tian-Kuo and Yang Yang communicate using sign language throughout most of the movie, resulting in an interesting relationship between the two and an ending you do not see coming. Some might dislike the slow pace of the film, I loved it for that exact reason. Hear Me is more than your stereotypical love story, as it beautifully portrays a slice of Taiwanese life through sign language. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking, Tian-Kuo's parents luckily also provide a healthy dose of hilarity. I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of the plot twist towards the end but it does not make this touching movie any less worthwhile to watch.
5. Japan: I Just Wanna Hug You
I know, I know - this title does absolutely nothing for the film. In fact, it might even discourage you to watch it, and so I urge you not to judge this film by its name. I have included this one because it's the most recent Japanese film I've seen and I liked it. I Just Wanna Hug You (2014) is about Masaki, a taxi driver, who falls in love with Tsukasa, a young wheelchair-bound girl. I told you, Asia produces some killer romantic dramas. I have been a fan of Nishikido Ryo ever since Ichi Rittoru No Namida (2005) because he's always been convincing as the caring good guy. Similar to Hear Me, I Just Wanna Hug You follows a simple storyline and shines in its simplicity. Masaki and Tsukasa are adorable together and manage to deal with the challenges life throws at them. Make sure you've got some Kleenex nearby because there is a chance you might need some.