This Valentine’s Day marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Notting Hill (1999), the charming comedy that captures the very essence of love in London. Here’s a look at some other films that are perfect for all the hopeless romantics in the city.
There are plenty of films set in London (it’s one of the most-used locations in the world), but romance may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to the capital city. However, there are in fact loads of romantic films set in London, some of them featuring some famous landmarks – and some very familiar faces.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… was a huge hit when it came out, and it was the first Bollywood production to get a theatrical release in Germany. One plot line in the movie features Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) coming to London in an attempt to reunite his family. It might give tourists a romanticised look at the city, but that’s sometimes just what you need.
Richard Curtis (more of him later) knows London. Well, a specific part of London. We can’t really imagine him, or any of his characters, having a large one in Hoxton on a Friday night. Still, the bits of London the director is familiar with look great on screen. About Time is a time-travel romantic comedy, but the setting is a very real London town. Drunken nights out trying to figure out which branch of the confusing Northern Line to take are the sort of evenings we can all relate to. Watch out for an early appearance by Margot Robbie.
This one isn’t that well known outside of the UK. The film takes one of the busiest rail stations in the city as a starting point (two characters are supposed to meet under the clock at Waterloo Station), and things rapidly progress from there. We see plenty of Soho, which is not a popular location on film despite being the heart of the movie industry in this country, and a lot of the South Bank. If you live in the city, you’ll recognise plenty of it on screen. There’s the added bonus of Lake Bell putting in the perfect romcom performance: quirky, cute and never annoying.
This quirky high-concept romantic comedy stars Gwyneth Paltrow in two alternate timelines that depend on which train the main character catches at the start of the movie. Helen Quilley (Paltrow) has just been fired from her job in public relations and is rushing to catch an underground train to get home. From here, we see a ‘what if?’ scenario that plays with the concept of multiverses and the countless choices a person can make at any given moment. Don’t worry, the film doesn’t really delve into the quantum physics of it all, but rather the real-life drama that ensues.
Hugh Grant teamed up with writer Richard Curtis again to make this movie, following their runaway success with Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and this time they enlisted Julia Roberts to play a Hollywood actor in the constant glare of the media spotlight. You can still visit some of the locations from the movie, and it does make a romantic escape from Central London, but at weekends it’s arguably even busier than Soho.
Being able to put on an impeccable English accent is a godsend for any aspiring American actor, and Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed many English characters early in her career. We’ve already seen her in Sliding Doors, and here she is again in this well-known historical drama, which can generously be described as a loose biopic. To be fair, Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes and a host of British luvvies are all excellent and, if you look hard enough around the modern city, you can still find some remnants of Shakespeare’s London.
Unfairly mocked in recent years, the original Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001 – there have been two sequels since) is still a fantastic film. Hugh Grant plays somewhat against type as a sleazy yet handsome rogue, with the bumbling left to the affable Colin Firth this time around. The real star, however, is Renée Zellweger, who transformed herself from a Texan belle to an English rose for the part. She won over many naysayers in the process, but we remain dubious about how Bridget could afford her lavish lifestyle on her meagre media salary. Be sure to visit Borough Market and seek out the exterior that was used for her flat.
As anyone who has ever been in love will tell you, it’s not all chocolates and Richard Curtis movies (that’s the last time we’ll mention him, honest). The darker side of love is expertly explored in this movie in which Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts embark on a series of hook-ups that cause each of them a lot of pain. The performances are all superb (Portman and Owen were nominated for Oscars) and we get to see a slightly more tarnished view of London than in some of the other films mentioned.
A classic of 1980s working-class cinema, My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) highlights tensions between the native English population of London and the Pakistani communities in the area. Omar (Gordon Warnecke) reunites with his old friend Johnny (an early appearance by Daniel Day-Lewis) and the pair become lovers and caretakers of a laundrette business. Set in a grubby part of South London, the film (as the title implies) is ultimately a beautifully told love story.
Unsung comedy heroine Rose Byrne (Spy, Bridesmaids) stars in this British comedy about a couple who get married despite the doubts of their friends and family. There are some lapses in quality, but when it gets into its stride, the film is hilarious. Stephen Merchant delivers one of the worst best-man speeches we’ve ever seen, and Byrne is as effervescent as ever. There’s plenty of scenes set in London and, having been to most of the locations, we can attest to the movie’s realism.
Ingrid Bergman plays a successful actor who might have her professional life in order, but has personal troubles that are not going away. She’s given up hope of finding the right man, until the suave Philip Adams (Cary Grant) walks into her world and captures her attention. The only problem is that everyone thinks Philip is already married, but will that stop her from falling in love? London features heavily in the movie, and you can still find some remnants of the 1950s locations around town.