Movies about love and relationships that aren't like whirlwind romances?
January 3, 2009 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for movies about love that are not of the Titanic type. That is, they are about two people who learn to love each other over a long period of time. Maybe at first they don't particularly like each other - or they are just together by necessity, or they are just friends and never think about love. Any ideas?

It's for a friend who has already had two divorces. I suspect she has fallen in love with a fairytale only to discover that love requires a lot of acceptance and forgiveness. She told me the other day she had watched Titanic and thought how wonderful the story was. I really don't think it's the type of narrative she should be looking for in her life. I'm trying to give her other ideas. She is in her late 30s with a teenage son.
posted by vizsla to Human Relations (53 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
When Harry Met Sally is the most obvious one that comes to mind.
posted by meerkatty at 1:40 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

When Harry Met Sally is a classic example of this.
posted by emd3737 at 1:40 PM on January 3, 2009

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is probably the best movie out there for dispelling the fairytale myth while at the same time instilling the viewer with romance. I'll let you know as I think of more of these.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:41 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Once - a modern day musical that feels like a love story, but kind of isn't.
When Harry Met Sally - they end up together in the end but it takes them a decade or so.

TV series tend to do a better job of leaving romances unconsummated- Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghey on 30-Rock are a pair that would be falling in love at the end of the movie, but on the series I bet this will never happen.
Nancy and Conrad on Weeds take a while to get there, too.
Mal and Inara on the Joss Whedon series Firefly.
The BBC version of The Office also takes a long time for the central love story to resolve, and the NBC version of The Office has a number of slow love stories. I don't watch enough serial TV to be able to list many others, but I think that might be the jackpot, since the story arcs unfold over a year of episodes instead of in 90 minutes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:43 PM on January 3, 2009

As Good as it Gets?
posted by timory at 1:49 PM on January 3, 2009

Does Sweeney Todd count? Heh.
posted by Iosephus at 1:52 PM on January 3, 2009

posted by hot soup girl at 1:57 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Although it happens over a comparatively short time-scale, I found Show me Love a unique and compelling take on modern love.
posted by hnnrs at 1:59 PM on January 3, 2009

And I can't believe I forgot: Chasing Amy.
posted by Iosephus at 2:00 PM on January 3, 2009


pride and prejudice
sense and sensibility
mansfield park

all slow burning love stories. so in some of these one party is already in love with the other but it takes years for the other to fall in love back (eg mansfield park and sense and sensibility)

also portrait of a lady. she realises at the end she loves the sick guy. so it was her cousin but that was cool back then!

i like this question, i absolutely LOATHE unrealistic fairy tale love stories and when people get caught up in those ideas.
posted by beccyjoe at 2:03 PM on January 3, 2009

Zelary. It is a beautiful movie and meets your request perfectly.
posted by sulaine at 2:06 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Chungking Express
posted by rhizome at 2:09 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Zack and Miri Make A Porno
posted by cgg at 2:11 PM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Much Ado About Nothing (just try to ignore Keanu Reeves).
And seconding Zack & Miri.
Love Actually.
Stranger Than Fiction
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:15 PM on January 3, 2009

Coming Home: While her husband is in Vietnam, a woman volunteers at a veterans hospital and eventually falls in love with an old friend, now paralyzed.

Mrs. Brown: Queen Victoria's enduring relationship with Scottish servant John Brown.

Pride and Prejudice: Many happy endings as friendships turn to love.

Strictly Ballroom: Two unlikely dance partners gradually fall in love.
posted by terranova at 2:16 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

And one more: How I Met Your Mother. 4 seasons so far.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:17 PM on January 3, 2009

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Really good, and also quite romantic.

A classic is Shakespeare's comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" - Beatrice and Benedick taunt each other constantly, have known each other forever, and their friends have to trick them into falling in love with each other. I *loved* the movie with Emma Thompson as Beatrice.
posted by amtho at 2:18 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Buffalo '66
The Girl in the Cafe
posted by arianell at 2:21 PM on January 3, 2009

Forget Paris
posted by rmd1023 at 2:27 PM on January 3, 2009

Green Card with Gerard Depardieau and Andie McDowell: They enter into a marriage of convenience so he can get a Green Card and she can get her dream apartment in NYC with a greenhouse (which is available for married couples only). Initially they don't get along that well, but predictably, they do by the end. Good cast, pretty cute movie.
posted by ourroute at 2:27 PM on January 3, 2009

Some suggestion of BBC miniseries which tend to do this well: The 1995 version of Persuasion is my favorite romance, and all about forgiveness and love that endures over time. As a nice bonus, the characters aren't teenagers, and the actors portraying them look like normal human beings. The 1995 Pride and Prejudice is better at what you want than the 2007 one, so seconding that.
Others include Wives and Daughters, North and South, maybe Our Mutual Friend, and Middlemarch.

Also perhaps The Piano and Impromptu. Seconding Zelary, too.
posted by notquitemaryann at 2:31 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

The Cutting Edge.
posted by snugglebunny at 2:32 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some of the better mail order bride type movies would probably work. I am thinking of Sweet Land and Picture Bride, particularly.
posted by gudrun at 2:43 PM on January 3, 2009

Oh, yes, most emphatically seconding North and South.
posted by gudrun at 2:44 PM on January 3, 2009

No one has suggested Jane Eyre yet?

I also think Rebecca would suit, even though it starts with the whirlwind romance and wedding. But after settling in at Mandalay, they hardly seem to be in love anymore. It's not until the boat is recovered that the 2nd Mrs. DeWinter really into her own and you really see that Max loves her.
posted by saffry at 2:55 PM on January 3, 2009

When Harry Met Sally is cute and fits criteria, but is still a bit cliche. I like 10 Things I Hate About You for this, and it's a modern redux of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.
posted by Night_owl at 3:05 PM on January 3, 2009

I know this doesn't follow the whole mutual-dislike-leads-to-mutual-discovery-of-passionate-attraction formula, but my very favorite love story of all time, one that is very much about acceptance and forgiveness, is Harold and Maude.
posted by missjenny at 3:11 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sex and the City. No, seriously. No-nonsense lawyer Miranda gradually falls in love with sweet-natured bartender Steve, though he was just a fling at first. It's one of the most realistic and nuanced depictions of a relationship that I've ever seen. Also, Charlotte's relationship with her second husband is noteworthy. He's her divorce lawyer, whom she specifically chose because she found him unattractive and not dating material and therefore not a man she would mind witnessing her acting badly during her divorce case. And she winds up falling for him.
posted by orange swan at 3:11 PM on January 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

Fiddler on the roof. A couple admit their feelings after 25 years of arranged marriage during which they grow to love each other very much. Seriously, just this short, short song gives you what you're looking for in a nutshell.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:34 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I gotta throw Sommersby in there. She hates her husband, he's a lousy guy. He goes off to war. "He" comes back and she falls in love with him.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:45 PM on January 3, 2009

actually, she falls in love with him after quite a period of time.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:45 PM on January 3, 2009

Oh, and the best love story/movie of all time IMO: The Sound of Music. No joke, I mean Maria started out as a nun for heaven's sake......
posted by ourroute at 3:57 PM on January 3, 2009

Off the top of my head: All the Real Girls, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Lost in Translation, Pride and Prejudice.

But these movies aren't going to help anyone deal with their personal divorce, they make it easier in some way, but it sounds like you're talking about personal problems. But I guess I'm no psychologist.
posted by codybaldwin at 4:15 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about Before Sunrise and the sequel, Before Sunset?

The first one alone is just kind of cute, but the sequel adds some layers to the story that might make it the kind of thing you're looking for.
posted by sively at 4:21 PM on January 3, 2009

Two for the Road is about a marriage, but it's a relationship that changes and is very complex. It makes me cry every time, because it's far more true to life than most conventional romance films.

And it stars the sublime Audrey Hepburn, so there's another point in its favor.
posted by chihiro at 4:50 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

The Painted Veil with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts.
posted by MS_gal at 5:13 PM on January 3, 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes

I loathe the Zeffirelli version of Jane Eyre. He excised all the witty repartee and teasing dialogue between Mr Rochester and Jane, ripping the soul out of their relationship in the process. The 2006 miniseries looks like it'd be a much better adaptation.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:23 PM on January 3, 2009

Next Stop Wonderland. It takes a while before the two main characters actually get together, and they almost end up with other people. Plus, there's Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a crazy ex-boyfriend and an awesome bossa nova soundtrack.
posted by bbq_ribs at 6:31 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Some Kind of Wonderful
posted by Gungho at 7:39 PM on January 3, 2009

Seconding Sex and the City, although I'm still mad at the way they lost their nerve and just magically had Carrie and Big be right for each other in the end. However, I think the story of Charlotte's first marriage could be great for your friend - her fairytale marriage falls apart, but it force her to be more open-minded about love which eventually leads to a truly happy marriage.

Bridget Jone's Diary might suit too. It's loosely based on Pride and Prejudice.

Oh, and Definitely Maybe would be great for this.
posted by lunasol at 7:50 PM on January 3, 2009

The Goodbye Girl: our two protagonists meet because the exboyfriend of Paula subleted her apartment to Elliot without telling her. It's a delightful movie and it fits your criteria.

The Apartment: our protagonists don't hate each other, but it is not a traditional love story. And the happy ending isn't overblown, but really simple.

I will also second good BBC miniseries. The 2006 version of Jane Eyre is the only film adaptation of Jane Eyre that I adore. I also rather like their Pride and Prejucide (who doesn't?) and North and South. I also nth Shadowlands, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sense and Sensibility, Much Ado About Nothing and Lost in Translation.

And while it is more about friendship than romantic love, I often return to Fried Green Tomatoes when I need faith in life.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 8:17 PM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

With Honors a Brendan Frasier movie from way back had him having a long relationship with his best friend before it became romantic.
posted by medea42 at 10:18 PM on January 3, 2009

the notebook
posted by gonzo_ID at 4:07 AM on January 4, 2009

Mozart and the Whale - a tender story of love where both parties involved have a disability that is hindering emotional intimacy. It shows how, even in extreme conditions, people get over themselves for what they have between themselves.
posted by Jurate at 4:43 AM on January 4, 2009

These movies are mostly pretty cheerful about twoo wove, and many (like Amelie) have nothing to do with reality. I know you want to cheer her up, but movies are better sources of fantasy than they of accurate Life Lessons. In my experience at least, love actually falls into one of two categories:
Lost in Translation or
The Secret Lives of Dentists.

Not exactly a pep talk.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:04 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try The Remains of the Day. The relationship between the two main characters is incredibly subtle and complex, but beautifully rendered, esp. in one masterful scene.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 1:32 PM on January 4, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
posted by cnc at 6:09 PM on January 4, 2009

ooh seconding The Painted Veil. I LOVED that beautiful love story.
posted by beccyjoe at 6:14 PM on January 4, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction - it takes a while for the two leads to understand each other but there is plenty of sweetness and real romance when it finally happens.

And I can't believe no one suggested: The X-Files. The content might not be to everyone's taste but if you want to see hours of unconsummated sexual/romantic tension, a wonderful trusting friendship that builds over years and plenty of supernatural havoc, you can't go wrong with Mulder and Scully.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:39 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

The ones I were going to suggest (Love Actually, Sound of Music) have already been mentioned, but I wanted to chime in and say that I am emphatically against "The Notebook" for a look at realistic love. In my opinion, the Notebook, like A Walk to Remember and most other Nicholas Sparks productions, was basically filled with one cliché after another as the starcrossed lovers find themselves embroiled in a century long whirlwind romance across wars and weddings (not to mention affairs) that triumphed over pretty much everything else in their lives. And, of course, typically of romance flicks, it glorifies the NRE (New Relationship Energy) period of the relationship while completely ignoring the commen sense, compromise, and communication that's actually required for a successful real life match. It was a cute movie, yeah, but by no means realistic, and definitely not what a recent divorcee needs to be subjected to.
posted by Phire at 5:22 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ma nuit chez Maud.
posted by aquafortis at 6:20 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

You might find this previous question helpful, and I'll second Shadowlands.
posted by salvia at 5:43 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The mention of "The Goodbye Girl" made me think of "The Good Girl." It covers both the wisdom/comfort of marriage, marital problems, and the problems with whirlwind romances/affairs.

When it was recommended to me, I was resistant because I thought it would be a Jennifer Anniston romantic comedy. However, it deals thoughtfully and compassionately with a young married woman's desires and dissatisfactions. Really, all the characters were well-written and compelling. This movie should have gotten more traction.

Here's the IMDB synopsis.
The plot revolves around a young married woman whose mundane life takes a turn for the worse when she strikes up a passionate and illicit affair with an oddball discount-store stock boy who thinks he's Holden Caulfield.
posted by degrees_of_freedom at 9:19 AM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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