Romantic movie quantum physics… it’s complicated. There’s a lot that hangs in balance: on-screen chemistry, a decent script, sexual ingenuousness, characters that are not entirely maddening to watch. A great soundtrack helps immeasurably, too; it’s the supporting cast member that rarely gets its due, despite its weight to convey a hidden depth of feeling where action fails. Though, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, there’s a considered art to curating such a soundscape. Like the writer-director (and former Rolling Stone journalist) Cameron Crowe – responsible for cinematic gems from Almost Famous to Jerry Maguire – astutely observed, “music can be a very cranky partner in the editing room. Most songs almost scream, ‘Leave me alone!’” So, seeing as romance and music can be a seed of comfort on rainy days, here’s a compilation of films that combine the very best of both to counter summer’s stubborn refusal to play ball.
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
It’s hard not to fall hook, line and sinker in love with When Harry Met Sally, the chicken soup for the soul of films; a go-to recommendation for those who effusively pronounce themselves as haters of the romantic comedy genre (as though preferring The Godfather trilogy and having a MUBI subscription somehow makes you a better person. It does not). Really, it’s a story about friendship, sexual politics, “stupid wagon wheel coffee tables!”, and acceptance. Admittedly, this is more of a ‘winter’ album (featuring songs like ‘Autumn in New York’, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; et al), but seeing as we’re in firm agreement that time is a construct of our own making, we’d prescribe this for any nondescript evening of the week.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Sometimes the greatest love stories are the ones where there is little said, where feelings are contained in silences and secret glances. Call Me By Your Name’s soundtrack – featuring Sufjan Stevens’ ‘The Mystery Of Love’ and 80s synth classic ‘Love My Way’ by The Psychedelic Furs – plays an integral part to illuminating this fuzzy dance, a very specific kind of romantic elation, where just to be near someone you’re deeply into is both insufferable and exquisite. A musical odyssey of blossoming, all-consuming desire.
ROMEO + JULIET
The most romantic and, yes, possibly the most depressing stories of all time. But ohmygod, the music in Baz Luhrmann’s adaption of the Shakespearean classic is faultless: from the sublime and sexy to the dizzying and devastating; there’s something for everyone… 90s alt-grunge, indie pop and the ultimate love ballad, Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’.
Movies, the good ones at least, are a portal of discovery. At the best end of the audience reactionary spectrum, a means to discover something about yourself. How you have loved or wish to be. Blue Valentine will do just that – it will undo you. We wouldn’t classify this under the ‘feel-good’ umbrella, and yet, for all the pain and misery – and there is a lot of that – the leading couple cause each other, there’s an underscore of sweetness. A remembering of the tenderness shared during loves first bloom. Mirrored in ‘their’ song, a sleeper 1970s hit ‘You and Me’ by Penny & The Quarters. Suitably heartful and heart-breaking.
It seems apt that a movie following a music journalist (Gina Rodrigez), looking back on the highs and lows of a long-term relationship – and ultimately grappling with its demise – would be cushioned with good songs. Think dance-around-in-your-underwear pop to sad girl summer anthems (Motion ‘Sickness’ by Phoebe Bridgers and ‘Missing U’ by Robyn). To get your head back in a decidedly more hopeful space of future flirtations? Blast ‘Saturday’ by Twin Shadow and HAIM.
A STAR IS BORN
Hollywood loves a doomed romance. Too much, one could say. But if you are so inclined to dip your toe into more melancholic waters, the acting and music in this Oscar-winning remake is a tower of emotional strength. Lady Gaga’s ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ will move even the most hardened of stoics.
Whilst this movie was made in the 1980s, it is set in the early 1960s, a time of cultural upheaval, of shattering of convention to make room for more fun and more sex. The music reflects this newfound giddiness of pure unfettered pleasure. For dancing: Otis Redding’s ‘Love Man; for foreplay: Soloman Burke’s ‘Cry To Me; for a dose of love hangover neurosis: The Shirelles’ ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’.
This is a very un-Hollywood, lo-fi and genuine portrait of two people – an Irish busker and a Czech migrant – who fall in love, their souls bound together through the music they create together. The song featured in the soundtrack, ‘Falling Slowly’, won an Oscar in 2007, it captures a tender and nourishing companionship and is, quite simply, perfect.
Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Bowie, The Beach Boys, Neil Young… the early 70s hitmaker gang are all here, which makes sense, it being Cameron Crowe’s movie that is essentially a drawing of himself as a teen writer for Rolling Stone magazine, touring with rock stars. Though it’s the film’s instrumental final scene song, ‘Cabin In The Air’ by Nancy Wilson, that is soul-stirringly good. A wordless melody that, in less than two minutes, seems to perfectly capture that feeling of love in its infancy. Sweet, protected, like a cabin floating above the clouds.