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A Completely Objective Non-Bitter Review of My Love Life in Cinematic Context

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by Hailee Barber (3L)

Although a bit late for Valentine’s Day I’ve decided to reflect on my own romantic history and the ways that some of my favourite movies have influenced those experiences.  Devoted readers of my Canons articles (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!) will recall that last year I penned a cheery piece entitled “The Death of Relationships: Ashley Madison, Tinder, and My Return to Singledom”. When writing this I had once again found myself playing the role of single gal about town so I felt it was only appropriate to return to the ever popular topic of my love life.  So, in the name of a Valentine’s Day that absolutely spent with a bottle of red wine and binge-watching Sex and the City, let’s take a look at my love life through the lens of some memorable cinematic features.

Gone With the Wind is one of my favourite movies, and growing up I wanted nothing more than to be the feisty and independent Scarlet O’Hara. She never let a man get in her way or allowed love to hold her back from fighting off those damn Yankees. If you haven’t seen the movie I recommend you set aside approximately 238 minutes (you don’t want to miss the overture and intermission) and revel in the sweeping beauty and deeply problematic romanticization of Civil War era America that is Gone With the Wind.  I do not however suggest that you, like a young Hailee (modeling Scarlet O’Hara) decide that a Rhett Butler type is your dream man. He drinks too much and has a hella bad temper. Sure he’s the epitome of tall dark and handsome, and yes it’s lovely that he tells you that “You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how” (clearly he’s that someone, full of yourself much?).  He’s also emotionally unavailable most of the time, and can best be described as a philanderer. I spent the better part of my first year of university in this disastrous sort of spiral and it was a process I’d rather not repeat.

Terms of Endearment is another great film that has impacted my romantic life. The relationship between Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson actually compelled me to break up with a boyfriend a few years ago. It took me three months after I watched the movie (on Valentine’s Day) to actually end things, but the scene where Jack and Shirley lay in bed talking about everything and nothing at all while rain poured down encouraged me to re-evaluate my own relationship.  Which is totally reasonable. Who wouldn’t look at a middle aged Jack Nicholson portraying a boozy former astronaut gone to seed and think “wow, maybe that’s what I’m really looking for in life”?  Humour aside this movie spurred a positive time of reflection for me, so thanks Jack.

In moments where I need a jolt of feel-good romance, or a good laugh/cry, I consistently return to my all time favourite, When Harry Met Sally. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are perfection, and I never get sick of their banter. Sally Albright is a character that I relate to more and more as I get older.  She’s quirky but comfortable in who she is, and has a confidence that is undeniable (let’s be honest, it takes some guts to fake an orgasm in the middle of a diner). Sally knows what she wants in life, and when she realizes that her partner doesn’t want the same she doesn’t try to force herself or her partner to become different people.  Instead she leaves, and is comfortable with her decision. Of course that doesn’t stop her from having a total meltdown when she finds out he’s getting married, but I love her all the more for that. She’s human and she always reminds me that being yourself, no matter how awkward that person may be, is a worthwhile goal.

A more modern tale of heartbreak that’s on my romance roster is 500 Days of Summer. It’s the perfect recipe for a millennial romantic classic: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) and Zooey Deschanel starring in a doomed office romance that begins with some questionable karaoke. It speaks to me. 500 Days of Summer is also a film that I’ve really grown with. When I first saw it I was fully team Tom, and the character of Summer seemed a bit heartless and unaware of how her actions affected this poor schmuck who was obviously crazy about her. As I’ve gotten older and experienced a few breakups where I was more of a Summer than a Tom I grew to understand her unwillingness to pretend when the feelings just aren’t there. People shouldn’t have to apologize for being honest about how they feel.  Also, the split screen scene that juxtaposes Tom’s expectations of attending Summer’s party with the reality? Genius. As someone with an extremely overactive imagination I understand how much it hurts to tell yourself a story about how things will play out, and then have it all fall apart when the real world doesn’t follow your carefully constructed story line. Sometimes you have to snap out of it and take stock of life for what it is, but 500 Days of Summer always reminds me that it’s possible to do so while still remaining optimistic about the world around me.

Now that I’ve written this article and feel completely self-actualized after making so many thoughtful self-assessments and observations about my romantic choices and true self I feel much more at peace with the state of the world and romance, and I wish the same for you.  Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day!! xoxo