Romance films are no longer limited to the formulaic narrative of ‘boy meets girl’. In recent years, directors have delved further into the genre, to create films that not only probe relationships, but also reveal new perspectives on life and love. From long-distance relationships, to thrilling affairs and poignant tales, here is a list of top romance films from around the world that you need to watch right now.
Directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet, and also known as Long Distance (2014), this Spanish film tells the story of two lovers who are separated by 10,000km (6,214mi) of ocean. It is a topical story many of us can relate to, where working life and love life clash. Alex (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) must maintain their intimate but fragmented relationship via Skype, WhatsApp and Google Maps. Taking place in just two locations, Alex’s LA apartment and Sergi’s Barcelona flat, Marques-Marcet’s feature debut film is an ambitious study of modern relationships.
‘3 Hearts’ (France)
Co-written and directed by Benoît Jacquot, 3 Hearts (2014) is a French dramatic melodrama that offers an interesting rendition of a love triangle. Starring award-winning actors Benoît Poelvoorde, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, 3 Hearts depicts the narrative from Marc’s point of view. This film is a tense and complex love story where chance encounters and love at first sight are contrasted by heart attacks and anxiety, amplified by an unusual score.
For more French cinema inspiration, discover these must-watch French films.
‘Casa Grande’ (Brazil)
Exploring the themes of love, class, race and youth is Fellipe Barbosa’s debut feature film Casa Grande: The Ballad of Poor Jean (2014). Set in Rio, the film depicts the teenage life of Jean, whose wealthy and overprotective parents are spiralling into bankruptcy. The story is told through nicely observed vignettes, which capture the hierarchical society of Brazil, the clash between classes and forbidden young love.
‘Another Year’ (UK)
A drama by the brilliant Mike Leigh, Another Year (2010) stars Lesley Manville, Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. Nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay, this poignant film portrays a married couple’s life over the course of a year, through the seasons. With a melancholic edge, Leigh’s story explores the complexity and dynamics of family relationships. The power of this film builds slowly and quietly, but is nevertheless moving and profound.
Planning a visit to the UK? These are the films to watch before you come.
‘The Blue Room’ (France)
A dark and thrilling tale of adultery, Le Chambre Bleu (2014), aka The Blue Room, is directed and co-written by Mathieu Amalric, who also stars in it. The scene of a steamy love affair quickly turns into the scene of a crime. The film, adapted from a novel by acclaimed crime writer Georges Simenon, holds its power by keeping viewers guessing throughout. Memory and deceit are scrutinised in this tense and twisted tale, which constantly shifts between the past and the present.
Care to learn more about Georges Simenon? These are some things you probably didn’t know about the Belgian writer.
A debut feature film directed by Tinatin Kajrishvili, Brides (2014) focuses on the life of a mid-30s woman with two children, whose partner is serving a 10-year prison sentence. The difficulties of their lives and relationships are at the core of this touching narrative. Changing regulations result in Nutsa (Mari Kitia) organising a quick prison wedding to Goga (Giorgi Maskharashvili), giving the film its title. Based on Kajrishvili’s own personal experiences when her husband was behind bars, this film portrays the strength of a truly tested relationship.
Heard of these Georgian movie directors yet?
This clever melodrama is the fifth feature film by Ahmad Abdalla. A black and white psychological story, Décor (2014) is an innovative take on the classic women’s film. Harking back to the golden age of Egyptian cinema, it follows the trials and tribulations of Maha, a production designer who is hired to work on a B-movie – which begins to affect her psychologically. Realities become blurred in this moving yet cutting-edge film.
Check out our top picks of inspiring female characters in Egyptian films.
‘Hungry Hearts’ (Italy)
An intimate and dramatic film by Saverio Costanzo, Hungry Hearts (2014) begins with a depiction of hopeful family life, before taking a sudden turn into irrationality and neuroticism. The film, set in New York City, charts the happy couple’s disintegration into madness, paranoia and isolation. The cinematography of Hungry Hearts, its mise-en-scène of close, intimate shots, is contrasted by fish-eye perspectives, amplifying the film’s jarring and unsettling nature.
For the top cinephile places to visit while in NYC, see our film buff’s guide to New York City.
‘Leopardi’ (2014), or Il Giovane Favoloso, is a biopic of the 19th-century Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, whose name is not immediately recognised worldwide. Mario Martone’s depiction of the poet elevates the artist, focusing on his spiritual anguish and existential melancholia. This is more than a history and biographical film; it provides contemplation on love, life and literature. With beautiful scenes of Florence, Rome and Naples, Leopardi is a must-see.
Planning a visit to Naples? These are the films and TV shows to get inspired by before you go.
‘Margarita With a Straw’ (India)
An emotionally touching and thought-provoking film, Margarita With a Straw (2014) is directed by Shonali Bose. Kalki Koechlin plays the part of Laila, a girl with cerebral palsy, and the film charts her struggles both with her day-to-day life and with her sexuality. Travelling from Delhi to New York University, the title for this film comes from a scene where Laila orders her first alcoholic drink. An empowering narrative, Bose’s film leaves a lasting impression.
For more India inspiration, check out these Bollywood films based on Delhi.
‘The Way He Looks’ (Brazil)
‘The Way He Looks’ (2014), or Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho in Portuguese, is a touching and unusual coming-of-age drama directed by Daniel Ribeiro. Based on a 2010 film called I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone (Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho), this film tells the story of Leonardo, a blind boy, whose life changes when he meets Gabriel. The film portrays the difficulties of homosexuality and visual impairment with compassion and dignity.
These coming-of-age films are also a must-watch.
‘Next to Her’ (Israel)
This 2014 film portrays the life of Rachel, the full-time carer for her mentally impaired sister, Gabby. When Rachel is forced to send Gabby to a care home, the void in her life soon becomes filled by a romantic relationship. However, difficulties emerge as Rachel tries to juggle the two relationships and boundaries become tested and blurred. This is director Asaf Korman’s debut feature film, which pivots on the unhealthy relationship between the two sisters.
‘Waiting for August’ (Belgium/Romania)
This fly-on-the-wall 2014 documentary reveals the life of Georgiana, a 15-year-old teenager from Bacău, Romania, who must look after her six siblings while her mother works abroad in Italy. She will not return until the summer, hence the film’s title. Many questions are left unanswered in this film, such as why their mother must work abroad. This is because the focus of the film is on the family and Georgiana, providing viewers with an intimate, but not intrusive, portrayal of their daily lives.
After you’re done watching Waiting for August, these are the must-watch Romanian films to consider next.
‘X + Y’ (UK)
Morgan Matthews’s X + Y (2014) is inspired by the acclaimed 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds. The British film charts the life of a young maths genius, Nathan, who is on the autism spectrum, as he travels to compete in the International Mathematical Olympiad. After losing his father in a tragic car accident, Nathan has difficulties connecting to people. This touching and heart-warming film shows Nathan repairing his relationship with his mother, as well as creating new ones with his peers.
Ever wonder which are the most filmed locations in London?
Set in 1979, Viktoria (2014), Maya Vitkova’s first feature film, is an ambitious, absurd narrative surrounding the birth of Viktoria. Pronounced the baby of the decade in socialist Bulgaria, she is also born without a bellybutton. Pampered and spoilt by the state, she leads a privileged life until the communist regime collapses. The film mixes satire with surrealism, resulting in an anxious atmosphere, revealed through widescreen and artistically composed shots.
Viktoria may not be that well-known, but these famous movies were filmed in Bulgaria, too.
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