How to Handle Sad Romance Films

After a long hiatus from blogging, I’ve decided it’s time to burst back onto the scene. And what better way to do that than to help my fellow humans through this Valentine’s Day weekend.

Some people find Valentine’s Day a little depressing, some people like it. I like it because it’s really close to my birthday and prefer to not let Hallmark holidays get me down around then since I love my birthday. So. To celebrate, most people agree that a sappy romance film is in order. As a film student, I happen to agree that if there’s a film for the occasion, then you should definitely watch it.

But the question is what movie should you watch?

If you want to go with the obvious, there’s the Love Actually copycat, Valentine’s Day, which I quite enjoyed. For me, the golden moments of that film were all the then-couple of Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner. Particularly, Taylor Lautner refusing to take his shirt off in public, since it makes him uncomfortable (a clear jab at his incessant shirtlessness in the Twilight Saga), and also a lovely moment in the bloopers of the film involving a “Hi, I’m Taylor and this is Taylor” moment between the two of them. valentines daySo that’s the obvious, easy choice. The title takes the choosing part away from you. And it’s a nice enough film. It’ll do the trick.

But, if I’m being honest, I love me some sad romance. Tear-jerkers. But. Even though some of these types of films are my favourite movies, they’re just a little too depressing for Valentine’s Day viewing, because a lot of them lack the happy endings we’ve come to expect. Nicholas Sparks adaptations tend to fall into this category, and, unfortunately, anything that is based on a true story or real events tends to lean this way a little too.

So, here’s my advice. It’s sacrilegious advice, especially from someone who studies film, but I’d actually like to suggest that you don’t watch the whole film. Stop it before it all turns to crap, and pretend they rode off into the sunset. Don’t bother with no Titanic, because there’s no way to make that not be a sad film, but I do have some examples of how to stop a sad film from leaving you feeling sad. I’m going to try to keep this pretty spoiler free, but keep an eye out for spoiler warnings if you haven’t seen the films I’m using as examples. Here goes…

The Notebook:

the notebookAs I said, Nicholas Sparks adaptations tend to fall into the category of sad romance films, and the Notebook is probably the most well-known of them all. It’s the heartbreaking story of Allie and Noah’s summer fling that seemed impossible because of the class divides that separated them. The story is told to an elderly woman in a nursing home by another resident who goes by the name of Duke. He reads the story from a notebook, hence the title. The story is gorgeous and lovely, and seems to have a happy ending, but there is a twist. So, as you’re watching the film, you’ll get to a scene in which the elderly couple are dancing, having just eaten a romantic dinner and everything is perfect. Ally and Noah have just gotten together in the story from Duke’s notebook, and it’s a lovely moment. Stop watching here.

If you’ve seen the film, you know why. What comes after this moment always breaks my heart and I can’t always take it. If you haven’t seen the film, and you want to come away not traumatised this weekend, just trust me. Stop watching. Watch the film again when you’re feeling more resilient. If you stop the film here, you can just tell yourself everything is happy and lovely and they all lived happily ever after and you can come away believing in romance and happy endings and all that good stuff. Just. Trust. Me. I’ll say no more on the subject.


Becoming Jane:

This film is a romantic adaptation based on the life of one of the most famous female novelists of all time, Jane Austen. Jane is a witty and clever girl, born for more than just marrying, but the time and society she lives in doesn’t make much in the way of allowances for a woman wanting to support herself, especially not with a craft so lowly as writing. Jane’s family is not wealthy and cannot offer her much, but she finds herself unable to bring herself to marry for money. Enter the dashing, wealthy playboy, Thomas Lefroy, who offends and angers Jane from the first, and finds great enjoyment in it. After a lot of arguing, the two of them begin to strike up an intellectual friendship that eventually evolves into a romantic attachment. Now, there are plenty of obstacles for the couple, most of them involving wealth and reputation, but the two of them find that being together is more important than these things. Unable to overcome them in any other way, however, they decide to elope.becoming jane

If you want to have your sappy, romantic happy ending, then you’re going to want to stop right after Jane meets Tom at the top of the road leading to her house. They kiss, it’s lovely, and they jump in a carriage and are on their way to marital bliss. The coach will ride off into the distance, and that can be that. If you want to just let yourself think they’ll live happily ever after, because once they’re married, nothing can break them up and their families will have to accept that, then stop watching right here. For you, this is the end of the film. The happy ending of the film. Because after this bit, things get a little more complicated and you don’t want to go there.

But. SPOILER ALERT. If you want to hear a story about a strong independent woman who don’t need no man in her life to support her and find success for her, then you know what? You keep watching. Because Jane Austen was a boss lady and she did things her way and, as I said, became one of the most famous female novelists of all time, and, as sad as it is, she did it without Tom. So, while maybe her ending could have been happier with him in her life, and his most certainly would have been, Jane made a life for herself without needing to marry to survive and she did it with class and grace, even if it did sometimes make her sad. And if you’re looking for a little inspiration in your life, then maybe you don’t need a sappy romantic ending to make you feel good, maybe you need Jane Austen kicking it Jane Austen style instead. END SPOILERS.


The Vow:

The VowHaha. Hahahahaha. I’m kidding. Basically all the bad stuff happens in like the first few scenes of this film. You can’t escape the tears by stopping the film at some point, unless you, you know, don’t watch it…

But that is going to stop me from sneaking in a quick recommendation for the based-on-true-events tale of Paige and Leo. I just love this film, and despite being a classic, and sometimes awful, tear-jerker of a film, I still like to revisit it around Valentine’s Day, even if the ending isn’t quite as perfectly happy as Hollywood would have made it. Although the film has a happy ending in its own way, and there’s something sweet about knowing nothing will keep you from finding the person you need to be with, not even forgetting who they are. I think what you get in The Vow is a bittersweet, realer kind of happy ending then you’ll get from your average rom-com. And, as it is based on a true story, there’s something slightly more comforting and encouraging about that kind of ending.


Anyway, that’s my golden advice about how to avoid coming away from sad romance films feeling dead inside and like you may as well give up now. It may seem a evil and wrong, but I have actually done this with these films before, when I wasn’t quite up for the horror of a sad ending, and it actually made me feel slightly better than I would have if I’d watched the whole thing. And it would work for plenty of your sadder romance films. To name a few: Atonement, Tristan + Isolde, Shakespeare in Love, The Time Traveller’s Wife. And probably even Romeo and Juliet, if you had a really vivid imagination and could invent better circumstances for the characters. Lots of these sad movies rely on the happy-ending-is-torn-away moment of the film to really get to you, but if you bypass it, you’re safe!

But, I suppose the ultimate cure for feeling sad at the end of films is probably to not watch sad films… It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other options out there. Buuuuut if any of you find that Valentine’s Day is getting you down, pretend you’re celebrating my birthday instead. Easy as.

So, if you have any suggestions for other films that can be made happy with this method, let us know in the comments! But if you don’t want to cheat, and use my trick with these films then I have only two things to offer you. Fake sympathy, and this image of the tissues you’ll be needing. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!