Recently, I went to brunch with an old friend I hadn’t seen in about a year. We used to be very close, talking every day, but then life took us in different directions. She’s the kind of friend that you feel like you just saw yesterday no matter how much time has passed. So it didn’t surprise me when the conversation turned deep right away. What did surprise me was when she told me she was pretty sure her marriage was over. And that she was fine with that. The shocker? She’s been married almost as long as I’ve been alive.
Those of us who are hopeless romantics would like to think there is some kind of time threshold and that after you pass that you’re “safe” – together forever. Talking to my friend reminded me that break-ups are a reality at every age and every commitment level. It inspired me to resurrect my “best break-up movies” list I originally created for my badly neglected dating blog. (Visit it here).
In no particular order, my picks:
The War of the Roses with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. If you’ve ever hoped for happily-ever-after, this movie about a long-time marriage gone terribly wrong will put you right out of your misery. I first saw this movie before I had ever been in a serious relationship (it came out when I was a teenager) but it drew me in with its dark and tragic humor. Later, when I was going through my own divorce, I thought about it a lot (and even re-watched it a couple of times). It accurately depicts how genuine love and togetherness can devolve into all-out war. Leaving a relationship where kids and property is involved is messy, terrifying and painful. The War of the Roses makes you laugh about it… sort of.
The End of the Affair – Where to begin with this heart-wrenching movie. First, let me say it’s worth watching just because Ralph Fiennes is swoon-worthy as the spurned lover who can’t let go even two years after Julianne Moore’s married character is done with him (or so he thinks). Oh, and also: there is a hot sex scene. Oh, Ralph Fiennes, how I love thee.
The sets and costumes are also gorgeous, faithfully reproducing World War II England. It’s an exploration of love and betrayal and loss. The questions it asks are well encapsulated by one of my favorite lines: “Do you think love ends just because we don’t see each other?” (See it here on the YouTube trailer). Although you begin the movie by feeling sorry for the jilted Fiennes character, you see things very differently by the end of the film.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. I just love this movie, but in talking about it to a lot of people, I realize it is not for everyone. First, you have to accept the fantastical premise: in a not-too-distant future, a doctor has created a process by which a certain set of memories can be erased. Second, you have to understand that a lot of the movie happens in Jim Carrey’s character’s head.
Kate Winslet, absolutely fantastic as the free spirit with ever-changing hair color (my favorite is the blue), has broken up with him and gone to get the procedure done. It is absolutely gut-wrenching when he goes to see her and she doesn’t recognize him. Broken-hearted, Jim Carrey goes to get the memory-erasing procedure done too. Much of the movie is about the technicians hunting through Jim Carrey’s mind to ferret out memories of Kate Winslet… and erase them. Somewhere in the process, though, he realizes that even though it’s painful, memories of love are worth hanging on to. A truly beautiful exploration of the heartbreak but inevitability of falling in love.
The poem from which the movie takes its title is romantic and sad and lovely too:
It is Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope, published in 1717 (see? People have been getting their hearts splattered for centuries). About an illicit affair that ends tragically and Eloisa’s burning love for Abelard which is unreturned.
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?
Yet, yet I love! — From Abelard it came,
And Eloisa yet must kiss the name.
(500) Days of Summer – an excruciating trip through loving someone more than they love you… except you’re too blind to see it. This movie reminds me why I am a total idiot when I’m in love. Tom, a frustrated architect, is unhappy at his job in a greeting card company. That is, until Summer shows up and he is smitten instantly. They start a relationship, and each of them sees something different: he sees love, she sees a casual fling.
It’s the most hopeful movie on the list. (You didn’t think I’d leave you like that, sad after all those hopeless movies). Well, it’s hopeful sort of. In the end the main character is vindicated… or maybe he just proves he’s learned nothing from getting his heart splattered. Depends on who you talk to. (I think he gets his happily-ever-after, but that’s because I’m a sap).