In our continued mission to live a conscious life, we’re constantly pursuing an alternate approach to otherwise tried formulas. Valentine’s Day is no exception to this rule. So, instead of focusing on films that glorify an exaggerated notion of ‘love’, we’re looking at five films whose exploration of it, in all its authentically flawed and tumultuous glory, is truly rejuvenating for the soul.

01. Her

2013 ‧ Drama/Romance ‧ 2h 6m
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
Awards: Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Rating: 8/10 IMDb, 94% Rotten Tomatoes

The drama/romance film that had the tech-savvy crowd buzzing in 2013 explored the evolution of technology and what it meant for the standardized human relationship. In this dystopian future, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a man riddled with insecurities that turn to his AI; an artificially intelligent assistant named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) for companionship and what he believes is love. While the film premise isn’t nearly as simple as that and message boards are still deciphering what the ending truly meant, the overall messaging explores mental health, self-worth and yes- love.

02. Muriel’s Wedding

1994 ‧ Drama/Comedy-drama ‧ 1h 50m
Starring: Toni Collette, Bill Hunter, Rachel Griffiths
Awards: AACTA Award for Best Lead Actress
Rating: 7.2/10 IMDb, 78% Rotten Tomatoes

We had to include a classic film on Valentine’s Day and what better pick than the 1994 classic; Muriel’s Wedding. The lead character Muriel Heslop (played by Toni Collette) is your run of the mill outcast who is continuously ridiculed by her friends and peers. That is until she meets Rhonda Epinstalk; an old high school acquaintance that instantly becomes her closest confidante. Together the duo experiences a series of problematic and often comical events that explore mindfulness, self-love and friendship, leading up to the films inspiring ending.

(We binged the Arabian Collection while watching this)

03. Phantom Thread

2017 ‧ Drama/Historical period drama ‧ 2h 11m
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Awards: Academy Award for Best Costume Design
Rating: 7.5/10 IMDb, 92% Rotten Tomatoes

The Phantom Thread is a 2017 film and is a period piece based in the heyday of the Haute Couture fashion era; the 1950s. The story follows eccentric couturier Reynold Woodcock, played by Daniel Day-Lewis (the last role before his retirement) whose obsessive and compulsive tendencies infringe on every aspect of his life including the relationship he struggles to nurture with his newfound muse; a waitress by the name of Alma, played by Vicky Krieps. The film explores the intricacy of human relationships and pitfalls of toxic masculinity set against a vividly captivating backdrop of fashionable London, in its heyday.

04. Enough

2002 ‧ Thriller/Drama ‧ 1h 56m
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Billy Campbell, Juliette Lewis
Rating: 5.8/10 IMDb, 22% Rotten Tomatoes

Let’s start by congratulating Ms Lopez on the stellar performance at the halftime show, now let’s turn back time and look at one of her underrated classics from 2002; Enough. The film revolves around a waitress in Los Angeles (JLo) whose quaint existence is suddenly riddled with trauma when her spouse becomes physically abusive. The film excels in championing a message of self-worth and the love that comes from acknowledging it, albeit under dire circumstances.

05. Marriage Story

2019 ‧ Drama/Comedy-drama ‧ 2h 17m
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta
Nominations: Academy Award for Best Picture
Rating: 8/10 IMDb, 95% Rotten Tomatoes

Charlie Barber played by Adam Driver is a successful theatre director in New York whose wife played by Scarlett Johansson is a former teen film sensation, currently involved in her husband’s latest production. The film explores a slowly but surely dilapidating marriage while deconstructing the very premise of marriage itself. The film artfully (and very realistically) chronicles a divorce in its various stages but circles back to the joy shared between two individuals in what could have been the perfect union.

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