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Film

14 Days of Romance: What My February Watchlist Taught Me About Love

Collage of films for Emily's Article

Even after Valentine’s Day, February is my month for romance movies.

This idea for watching solely romance movies in February came from our very own Cole and his month of horror movies in October. However, I’m no movie master like he is, I can’t say I watched one film a day. But I did commit myself to 14 romance movies for the month and learned quite a bit.

This is my February watchlist.

1. Leap Year

We started our month off in Ireland, taking a cross-country trip with our clichéd, albeit sometimes charming couple, Anna from Boston and Declan. They are your classic Beatrice and Benedict: guy meets the girl, girl hates the guy, yada yada yada (for more reference to where this classic RomCom trope just might have stemmed, please refer to Kenneth Branagh). For all its nuances, this film still has those moments of Truth, with a capital “T.” Like that some things are nice to want, but some things you need. Or like when you’re with the right person, you want to make plans with them. You want a life with them because you know it will only make your life richer. I go back to this film for those gold nuggets.

2. Groundhog Day

“Isn’t Groundhog Day just a comedy?” you may say. Well, in my book, I would classify this as a RomCom. Hear me out: at the heart of this classic comedy is a guy trying to get the girl. The whole movie he always goes back to her. She is his reason to become something, even the best possible version of himself. He needs her. And I think that’s a beautiful thing, to be needed by someone just as much as we need them.

No matter how many times I watch this movie (which is a LOT), I still cry when Phil’s talking to Rita as she’s falling asleep. Telling her that he doesn’t deserve her, but if he could he would never let her go. That’s a love story right there.

3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I’ve got to stop watching films about writers, I get too attached to them. Also, I have to put in a little disclaimer: before watching this one, I really thought it was more of a romance. Granted, the film does have those romantic elements (cue the down-to-earth pig farmer and American GI love triangle). Turns out, though, that it was more of a period piece about the effects of the German occupation on Guernsey than solely a romantic movie.

And yet, the core essence of the film was a love of books and the connections that they create with people. Like Sleepless in Seattle as Nora Ephron’s love story to cinema, this was a love story to literature. So, naturally, I fell in love with it as well. Along with the idea of being brave enough to follow your heart. That you’ll know what it’s telling you to do because it’s the same voice that speaks to you when you’re reading The Tempest or the Brönte sisters. It tells you that you already have the courage you need and that you are braver than you believe.

4. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

This was one of those breakout films last year that I never got to see, but I’m glad I finally did. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a classic and cute teen romance with an atypical twist. I tried explaining the plot to a friend and I couldn’t do it without 20 minutes of explaining why she was with the guy in the first place. So, complicated, but clever.

That teen drama, though, was just a little hard for me to get through, not gonna lie. But, if we’re talking about what I learned, this film was a good reminder that you’ve just got to cut the drama. Sometimes we build things up when there is really no need. Just wait and hear what Peter Kavinsky is going to tell you before you run away. Just be honest with yourself and with others so you don’t have to fake date the hot boy in school. Or don’t so you can. Either works. I’m just really hoping Lara Jean steps up her game in the sequel and becomes okay with herself, because she’s so funny and such a lovable character. She just needs to own it instead of apologizing for it.

5. About a Boy

Can we count the third act of this film as a romance? Because there I was waiting nearly the whole movie for Rachel Weisz to show up so that I knew that Netflix’s promo pictures and its categorizing of the film under “Romance” weren’t a sham. But even if Hugh Grant’s romantic partnership or Marcus’ with his punk fantasy girlfriend weren’t the main focuses of the film, I took away a great deal away about relationships. How we sometimes don’t know how to let people in, but when we do, they become what makes life worthwhile. Also, don’t lie about being a single parent. Unless you have Nicholas Hoult to back you up as your pretend son. Then by all means, go for it.

6. You’ve Got Mail

This movie is so near flawless that it’s hard to say much about it. Except maybe that “Hello, it’s Mr. Nasty” needs to be a more commonly quoted line. Or that no matter how many times I watch this, Joe’s “I want to be your friend” and “How about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie…for as long as we both shall live” always get me. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. He was so certain that she was the one and yet he refused to ruin it by jumping in too fast; how many of us can say that?

7. The Wedding Planner

Follow up that perfection with J. Lo falling for the bleached-hair tool instead of giving Massimo a chance…it’s a little frustrating to say the least. And probably not a movie that would fly today. What did we learn, though? Love becomes like magic when you allow it to be so. Which sounds corny (it is) and not exactly a tangible thought (it isn’t). But when you give someone a chance, or in some cases a second chance, then you may find exactly what you were looking for. Some people watch this movie and get that you need to only eat the brown M&M’s. But that’s what I get.

8. The Light Between Oceans

Again, REALLY thought this was going to be more of a romance than it was. Can you blame me? With a tagline like, “Love demands everything,” and a movie poster that looks like Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in a meadow at dawn? I mean, c’mon.

At the heart of this film, though, was that endearing love. I don’t want to spoil it, but you’ll know what scene I’m talking about that makes this a definitive romance. And it’s not the lovey-dovey, blossoming romance. It’s the love that comes out of struggle and that is the only anchor you can hold onto when nothing else makes sense. Just bring a box of tissues when you get to that moment. And every moment after that.

9. Sabrina

I wish I could just quote lines from this and call it good. This is such a quotable and underrated RomCom. Maybe it’s Harrison Ford in a bowtie, maybe it’s Julia Ormond finding herself in Paris, maybe it’s Greg Kinnear not knowing what day of the week it is. Honestly, there are a million little things I love about this movie and that make it way better than the original (trust me). But for now, we’ll leave it with, “You always said Paris was a good idea. You couldn’t have meant without you.”

This is hands down my favorite Valentine’s Day movie, and I’m guessing it always will be. Also, “they call me Bojangles at the office.”

10. Music & Lyrics

Hugh Grant is great in this movie, as always. He’s no Will Thacker, but still great. Drew Barrymore on the other hand… is just…no. They may not be my favorite couple, but this was one of my guilty pleasure movies growing up. The music for one, but also the fact that love pushes you to do something extraordinary because you care about someone more than yourself. In RomComs, that big moment when the guy or the girl has to win the other back with some huge gesture is a bit of a clichéd trope, but with a great truth at its heart. For me, this was the movie where I learned that.

11. My Best Friend’s Wedding

“I could be Jell-o.” No, you just be you, Kimmy. Again, this was another one of my guilty pleasures growing up and even still. In part because of Julia Roberts who is amazing even when she’s being a b–, but also because it shows that it’s going to be okay even when things aren’t okay. It’s one of my recommended breakup movies to people because we all want to be with someone who wants us back, and when they don’t we think that’s it. We get into our minds that we either have to fight to make it work, or sulk away and never find love again. I love that this movie doesn’t try to hide the fact that sometimes the person we love just doesn’t love us, especially if we’re trying to wreck their wedding even before it happens. And that’s okay.

That end scene, though. One of my all-time favorite endings.

12. Before We Go

Shoutout to that one IMDb editor who put this movie on my radar. I surprisingly really liked this one, even though I was self aware that it was ridiculous. This could be renamed, “Before I Just Call an Uber Like Any Normal Person Would,” but even still, I loved it all the same. It was filled with this little snippets of Truth, especially the one that it is possible to love more than one person in this life. So if one gets away, it’s not the end.

I think what I was most surprised about was how much I liked the ending. Not at first, though. There I was fast forwarding and waiting for an end credit scene or just something else, when it turns out I didn’t need anything. It was perfect. As much as I wanted more, it was perfect and complete as it was. Before We Go was a different kind of satisfying than most romances. It was a great refresh to the genre that I didn’t knew I needed.

13. Roman Holiday

This is classic Audrey Hepburn, and who doesn’t like Gregory Peck? And yet, this one really lets you down despite how charming it is throughout the whole movie. Its question of following your duty I could see being altere if they ever made a remake (which I don’t see, this one is pretty untouchable). In today’s world, most people would say to be true to the duty you have to yourself over others. I think both matter, but unfortunately in Audrey Hepburn’s case, having both just couldn’t be.

Although, I do have to say, her transformation is one of the best in cinema. The fact is, sometimes you just need a new haircut and a holiday.

14. West Side Story

There’s a reason this is in the AFI’s top 100 movies. Well, there’s a lot of reasons, 10 of those being Oscars. As someone who loves musicals and LOVES Romeo and Juliet, this was a match made in heaven for me. This modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy adds to the cinematic conversation of this classic beautifully. One day I’ll go off on all the religious symbolism and how not crazy it is that these star-crossed lovers fall so hard for each other in less than 24 hours. But for now, let’s leave it with how amazing Rita Moreno is and how okay I am that I still have “Maria” stuck in my head.

What movies were on your February or Valentine’s watchlist?


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