Some of my favourite romantic films don’t have happy endings.
I know, I know! I’m a romance author, where if Ms X doesn’t wind up with Mr Y, I can expect some copious ‘structural notes’ from my editor. As in, a total change of ending!
But let’s be honest, in real life, relationships END.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty in the journey, the heartbreak, the nostalgia. Just because you’ve since ‘uncoupled’ (thanks Gwynnie), it doesn’t mean you have to shove that memory in a box, lock it, and throw away the key.
It was a chapter of your life, just like that ‘ombre’ hairdo you sported. Your former partner, in some way, changed your view of the world, introduced you to new things. And that should be celebrated.
Without breakups, after all, we wouldn’t have songs like Adele’s Someone Like You or Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together to shriek along to in our car when we think nobody’s watching.
In the words of Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
The following movies are a testament to the fact that being a ‘fool for love’, putting your heart on the line, isn’t a bad thing, even if you don’t stay together. And that films with ‘unhappy’ endings can still be satisfying…
THE BREAK UP
When art dealer Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and tour-bus driver Gary (Vince Vaughn) finally call it quits, neither is willing to move out of their shared condo. Instead they become hostile housemates, each acting out to provoke the other.
Most interesting about the film, though, is the ‘autopsy’ of their relationship, from the escalation of “Why can’t you do this one little thing for me?!” arguments to Gary’s pal pointing out that Gary always had his guard up in the relationship and has been guilty of a lot of selfishness.
It’s particularly poignant (and realistic) when the pair later meet again by chance on the street, and after some slightly awkward catching up, part ways – with a smile – having moved on with their lives.
GONE WITH THE WIND
This American Civil War movie sees Rhett Butler striding away from lover Scarlett O’Hara after uttering that classic line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Not the usual Hollywood-clinch ending. But Scarlett is held up as a strong, independent woman (the kind Beyoncé would warble about) for vowing to carry on, saying: “After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Things don’t go well when young aristocrat Rose (Kate Winslet) falls in love with struggling artist Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) aboard the ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. When the ship breaks in half, Jack and Rose ride into the icy water together, Jack helping Rose onto a wooden panel only buoyant enough for one. He assures her she will die an old woman, warm in her bed – he, however, dies of hypothermia. Fast forward to the future and we find an old Rose alone on the stern of a treasure hunter’s research vessel, where she takes out the Heart of the Ocean blue diamond they’ve been searching for — in her possession all along — and secretly drops it into the sea over the wreck site. She won’t let them get her last ‘piece’ of Jack.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
What’s cool about this offbeat rom-com – surrounding a woman who doesn’t believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her – is that it’s told in a nonlinear narrative, jumping around within the 500-day span of Tom and Summer’s relationship.
On day 488, Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) catch up at Tom’s fave city spot. Summer admits he was right about true love being real and that she has discovered – in someone else – all the ‘feels’ she’d never been sure about with Tom. As she departs, Tom tells her he really hopes she’s happy. Twelve days later, he attends a job interview and meets a pretty lass, applying for the same role. They chat and make plans for a coffee date. When he asks her name, she ironically replies: “Autumn.”
MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING
As IMDB perfectly sums up this flick: “When a woman’s long-time friend says he’s engaged, she realises she loves him herself…and sets out to get him, with only days before the wedding.” After various shenanigans, things reach breaking point for the newlyweds-to-be (played by Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz). Julianne (Julia Roberts) must do the right thing, confess her deception and apologise. The happy couple reunite. At the reception, Julianne finally acts like a true best friend by telling Michael (Mulroney) that he and Kimmy (Diaz) can use their special song until they find one of their own and then hits the dance floor in non-Hollywood style with her gay bestie, George.
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