love in complicated times
May 2, 2014 1:18 PM   Subscribe

What are some good movies that follow complicated (but not needlessly miserable) adult relationships in the context of larger social changes or problems?

I just watched Miguel Gomes' Tabu and the third section of the film describes a love affair in Portguese Africa just before the colonial war. It reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Ermanno Olmi's I fidanzati, which follows a man who's left his fiance in Milan to work in Sicily as it transitions from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. And then thinking about that made me remember how much I liked Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours, a romance about an illegal Burmese immigrant in Thailand and his Thai girlfriend. So apparently it's a thing I like and now I want to watch more.

I'd prefer the romance not to be too swept up in whatever larger social context is serving as the backdrop. Not really interested in revolutionaries finding love on the front-lines (so, if I'm remembering it correctly, no The Dreamers).
posted by AtoBtoA to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The Unbearable Lightness of Being? Set against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Might be too "Dreamers" for you. Great flick though.
posted by elendil71 at 1:24 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Enemies, a Love Story.
posted by BibiRose at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Christopher and His Kind is set during the rise of fascism in Germany
posted by Strass at 1:35 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Lutoslawski at 1:42 PM on May 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis?
posted by mmiddle at 1:46 PM on May 2, 2014

You've Got Mail
posted by Jacqueline at 1:47 PM on May 2, 2014

The Lives of Others
posted by payoto at 1:51 PM on May 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Night Catches Us
posted by crush-onastick at 1:59 PM on May 2, 2014

Stonewall, one of the saddest movies I've ever seen (though it was a very long time ago).
posted by Blitz at 2:14 PM on May 2, 2014

Gone with the wind
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:15 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by magicbus at 2:17 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Year of Living Dangerously
posted by nanook at 2:18 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

The English Patient
posted by nanook at 2:19 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Secret in Their Eyes, set in mid-1970s and late 1990s Argentina
Water, set in late 1930s India
Belle Epoque, set in early 1930s Spain
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:29 PM on May 2, 2014

The Way We Were
posted by Ideefixe at 2:51 PM on May 2, 2014

Love Field
posted by mudpuppie at 3:03 PM on May 2, 2014

The Lover (L'Amant) The girl is a teenager, but it has most of what you're looking for otherwise.

And seconding Indochine!
posted by quincunx at 3:04 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh! And the beautiful, tear-jerking and underrated Zelary.
posted by quincunx at 3:19 PM on May 2, 2014

A separation
posted by whistle pig at 3:22 PM on May 2, 2014

posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 3:40 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Middlemarch" is exactly what you're looking for. Love, idealism, and complicated relationships in the time of reform. This particular adaptation is gorgeous, to boot.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:54 PM on May 2, 2014


oops, did not see that this was already mentioned.
posted by Fairchild at 3:59 PM on May 2, 2014

Comrades: Almost a love story is an AMAZING movie set in Hong Kong. It was produced around the time Hong Kong was passed back to China, and the story starts off in the 70s and follows the tension between a couple to the mid 90s. The love story part is very honest, about how love continues, but is complicated by life events. The part of the movie that really resonated for me was the conflict between tradition versus change, and how immigration ties into all of that. You can see the characters' desire to escape from their mainland 'village' lifestyles to the fast-pace of Hong Kong, and eventually to America, as subtle commentary on the development of China in general.

This movie is a classic part of Hong Kong cinema, was really popular at the time it was released, is the winner of 9 Hong Kong Film Awards and 2 Golden Horse Film Awards, and just writing this all out makes me want to watch it again. :)
posted by tinymegalo at 4:40 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Conformist.
posted by dhartung at 5:59 PM on May 2, 2014

Likewise, of course, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:42 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Life is Beautiful." More of familial love but still one of the best movies out of the twentieth century.

Fits your criteria perfectly, "A Very Long Engagement." Bonus: Audrey Tautou.
posted by IfIShouldEverComeBack at 9:11 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mammoth. Western businessman and his relationship contrasted with experiences in Thailand and the Philippines.

Days and Clouds. A couple struggles to stay together. The social change is around a changing economy.
posted by edlundart at 12:56 AM on May 3, 2014

Babel might also work.
posted by edlundart at 12:59 AM on May 3, 2014

The Way We Were, perhaps.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:34 AM on May 3, 2014

Havana is an awesome melodrama about a gambler in the last days of pre-Castro Cuba.

Out Of Africa is the classic of this genre. A bit Eurocentric but gorgeous.

Oh and the Ur-text of this trope is Casablanca of course. I presume you've seen it but if you haven't, do. It holds up.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:47 AM on May 3, 2014

Almost missed a chance to plug my favorite director Bertrand Tavernier! Check out Life and Nothing But.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:51 AM on May 3, 2014

You also might enjoy the films of the Merchant Ivory production team, especially historical fiction like The Remains of the Day and The Europeans.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:05 AM on May 3, 2014

The Best Years of Our Lives chronicles the return of servicemen to civilian life after WWII and focuses a ton on rebuilding relationships of all kinds.

Much of it actually holds up well, despite very much being a product of its time in its time.
posted by zizzle at 2:01 PM on May 3, 2014

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, by Deb Olin Unferth; it's a memoir of two young, clueless North Americans who go to Nicaragua to try to join the Sandinistas. Despite the title, it's more about their coming of age and their relationship falling apart than it is about them falling in love. It's a funny and thoughtful book.
posted by ITheCosmos at 2:57 PM on May 3, 2014

Possibly Dirty Pretty Things. And in a very different vein, maybe The Twilight Samurai. I wouldn't describe either of these films as romances, but they feature key romantic elements that might fit your criteria.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:38 PM on May 3, 2014

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