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, to poignant tales, here is a list of the top ten new romance films from around the world that you need to watch.
Directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet, and otherwise known as Long Distance, this Spanish film tells the story of two lovers who are separated by 10000km 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 Verdagauer) 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.
Co-written and directed by Benoît Jacquot, 3 Hearts is a 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.
Exploring the themes of love, class, race and youth is Fellipe Barbosa’s debut feature film Casa Grande: The Ballad of Poor Jean. Set in Rio, the film depicts the teenage life of Jean whose wealthy and overprotective parents are spirally into bankruptcy. The story is told through nicely observed vignettes which capture the hierarchal society of Brazil, the clash between classes and forbidden young love.
A 2010 drama film by the brilliant Mike Leigh, Another Year 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.
A dark and thrilling tale of adultery, Le Chambre Bleu is directed, co-written and stars Mathieu Amalric. The scene of a steamy love affair quickly turns into the scene of a crime. The Blue Room is adapted from a novel by the acclaimed crime writer Georges Simenon and 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.
A debut feature film by Tinatin Kajrishvili, Brides 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.
Directed by Ahmad Abdalla, this clever melodrama is his fifth feature film. A black and white psychological story, Décor is an innovative take on the classic ‘woman’s film’. Harking back to the golden age of Egyptian cinema, this film 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.
An intimate and dramatic film by Saverio Costanzo, Hungry Hearts begins with a depiction of hopeful family life, before taking a sudden turn into irrationality and neuroticism. The film charts the happy couple’s disintegration into madness, paranoia and isolation. The cinematography of the film, its mis-en-scene of close, intimate shots, is contrasted by fish-eye perspectives, amplifying the jarring and unsettling nature of this film.
Leopardi, 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.
An emotionally-touching and thought-provoking film, Margarita with a Straw 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.
Next to Her portrays the life of Rachel, who is the full time carer for her mentally impaired sister, Gabby. When Rachel is forced to send her to a care home, the void in Rachel’s 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.
This fly-on-the-wall documentary reveals the life of Georgiana, a 15-year-old teenager from Bacau, 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 the viewing with an intimate but not intrusive portrayal of their daily lives.
The Way He Looks, otherwise known as Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho, 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 depicts the life 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.
Set in 1979, Viktoria is Maya Vitkova’s first feature film. It is an ambitious and absurd narrative surrounding the birth of Viktoria, who is declared the Baby of the Decade in Socialist Bulgaria, and is also born without a belly button. Pampered and spoiled by the state, Viktoria 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.
Morgan Matthews’ X and Y is inspired by the acclaimed 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds. The film charts the life of a young maths genius, Nathan, who is on the autistic spectrum, as he travels to compete in the International Maths 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.