Four unconventional Valentine's Day films

Elisabetta Pulcini recommends unexpected Valentine's Day films.

Elisabetta Pulcini
10th February 2020

Forget flowers and chocolates. With their complicated characters and original insights, these films are the perfect choice for anyone looking for an unconventional Valentine’s Day watch.

Gone Girl (2014)

Guided by a brilliant Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl is a slow burn crime thriller for the ages. The complicated central relationship is the most interesting part of the movie: despite the entertaining twists and turns, Nick and Amy’s interactions are by far the most captivating part of this film. With a standout monologue on the ‘cool girl’, this film takes a hard look at society’s expectation of women, through a cold, manipulating gaze. With its cool colour palette and intelligent plot, this stylish production is a perfect choice for anyone looking for a Valentine’s Day filled with violence, revenge and psychological insight.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Adapted from the Edward Albee play, this cynical look at the reality of the American Dream is a classic. From the first scene, the brilliance of the screenplay becomes clear. The biting remarks, the character’s sardonic interaction: George and Martha are clearly not happy. They are forced in a shallow monotony by society’s standards, left to deal with their own unhappiness and regret. The contrast with the equally problematic young couple who visits them is poignant and hilarious. Though black and white, shot on one set and with only four characters, this film is never boring nor expected. A reflection of what happens to love once it is commodified for the benefit of society, this film is perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Secretary (1995)

Forget the infamously charmless Fifty Shades of Grey, because this movie is everything that God-awful rip-off was trying to be. In fact, while sadomasochism provides the background for this movie, the connection between the characters shows that there is more to this practice than lust. Trust, understanding and consent are at the core of this film and, though subtly conveyed, underline every interaction the characters have. Though the plot is formulaic at times, resembling the beats of a romantic comedy, the performances elevate this to an independent gem. Maggie Gyllenhaal in particular stands out, due to her insightful portrayal of the bond between emotional and physical pain. This movie is sexy, daring and unexpectedly deep: a truly necessary watch for an unconventional Valentine’s Day.

Corpse Bride (2005)

A gentle tale of love and loss, Tim Burton creates one of the most iconic fairy tales of our time. Corpse Bride is gentle, melancholic and haunting, just like its title character. The contrast between the dark world of the living and the colourful world of the dead is ingenious. In fact, the visual imagery is beautifully macabre and, as can be expected by a Tim Burton project, the character design is simple, yet memorable. The attention to detail in this stop-motion wonder is remarkable, and helps convey the bittersweet tone that carefully enchants the audience. This film is complex and emotional, more so than a lot of other more conventional romances, making it an interesting pick to indulge the Valentine’s Day blues.

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AUTHOR: Elisabetta Pulcini
Film Editor 19/20 and Law (LLB) graduate. An Italian passionate about journalism and the law: always up for a debate. @ElisabettaPul

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