What they don’t tell you about Love (and 5 Films That do)

Amidst this immense effort being put into making oneself feel more productive during the lockdown and trying to keep it going by reciting the quote “This too shall pass” day in and day out, I came across a very interesting piece of news that caught my attention. Now call me a sadist, but this article made me laugh. Out loud! The article read “Divorce cases rise in China as couples spend too much time together during coronavirus home quarantine”. While it took a death scare and a pandemic for people to understand that their one life is not to be spent in an unhappy marriage and that it’s okay to not have perfect endings, the dynamics of the institution of marriage is a very real issue that needs to be talked about more. 

I can’t emphasize how true it is that Cinema or at least certain aspects of it has always been more progressive than real life, Thus this blog! I’d like to talk about five films that I think nailed it in their portrayal of marriage and monotony. These films tell us that it’s okay if everything isn’t rainbows and cupcakes and that marriage isn’t the end of one’s life but merely a part of it. 


1. Marriage Story(2019), Noah Baumbach - Netflix

Now, I am the kind that hesitates to watch movies that are extensively being talked about and are excessively hyped. The foolish reason behind this is that the unreal expectation might spoil my true judgment towards the film and might induce a subconscious pressure to adhere to mob mentality. But boy was I wrong when it came to this one! Marriage Story is a film about an unhappy marriage and the coming into terms with it by the characters involved. Not just the husband and the wife but the child, the in-laws, the lawyers, the house and the cities. Hats off to anyone who can sit through this film without changing your mind at least a few million times about who is at fault. Because the movie shows it just like it is. Its nobody’s fault but merely a lack of compatibility. And that’s probably exactly how we must be viewing broken marriages. With empathy and not quick judgments. I am not even married and I could feel their pain. So will you! As beautiful as heartbreaking can get, this movie is definitely worth a watch!

2. Blue Valentine(2010), Derek Cianfrance - Netflix

The kind of relationship that parents have with each other, influences a kid’s upbringing and mentality in a significant manner. Dean and Cindy are a couple who are struggling to keep their marriage alive. Coming from dysfunctional families themselves, this heartbreaking story shows us what they were during their happy times and what they are now. Trying real hard to keep the marriage from falling apart for the sake of their little daughter, they crave for the positivity and romance that their relationship was once all about. Until they realize that time changes and with it changes bonds. 

3. Certified Copy(2010), Abbas Kiarostami - Amazon Prime

It starts from nowhere and ends nowhere but teaches you a lot of things in the 1 hour 46 minutes of the film’s run time. An author touring in Italy to promote his new book meets a french store owner. Both of them hit it off and decide to spend the rest of the day together, walking around the beautiful city of Tuscana, getting coffee, visiting museums and pretending like newlyweds. They talk about marriage, parenthood, faith and authenticity but here’s the catch. As you progress into the film, the lines between real and fake begin to blur. Are they partners going through a difficult phase in life or are they really strangers who are filling in the shoes of each other’s unseen partners will remain a mystery till the end of the film.  Much like the uncertainty of the institution itself.

4. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), Rainer Werner Fassbinder - iTunes

“But when we're together, we must be nice to each other. Otherwise, life's not worth living.” 

Marriage often ends up being more than just two people. To an extent where religion, culture, race, ethnicity and age becomes more a part of this institution than the two people in love. Emmi a German widow and Ali a young Moroccan migrant worker, fall in love and decide to get married. But their love for each other is disrupted by societal judgments, unacceptance by their own family members, prejudice and isolation. Yes, the film does end on a hopeful note as the couple decide to leave their skepticism and desire of acceptance behind and reunite in love. However, it’s too late and they’d have to pay dearly for it. This uneasy, unsettling story of love and prejudice is the most honest and truthful depiction that I’ve come across of how the human mind works, often manipulating what we truly desire.

5. American Beauty (1999), Sam Mendes - Amazon Prime

American Beauty is a lustful film of naked girls, rose petals and sparkling water. Hold it right there. Before you go ahead with your fantasies, I would like to clarify that it isn’t the kind of adult film that you are hoping for it to be. It is the kind of film that speaks about marriage and monotony in the most American, chaotic and yet beautiful manner possible. The core of the story is about a man who falls in love with his daughter’s best friend as he is bored with his own marriage. Disturbing? Wait till you meet his daughter’s boyfriend or get to know about his wife’s affair with the real estate agent. Sam Mendes beautifully fits into the storyline, certain societal issues without disturbing its flow. The film speaks about extramarital affairs without demeaning it, homosexuality especially the frustration of people belonging to this community due to constant suppression, the abuse that follows as a result of this frustration and so on. The film doesn’t justify the plastering of broken marriages through adultery but merely portrays the reality of the situation in the society, that unfortunately remains true to date!


This list goes on and one with more beautiful films like A Separation, In the mood for Love, Revolutionary Road and many classics from the early 70s and 80s. These films address the ongoing issue of the growing difference in the spectrum of relationships and the concept of marriage as an institution. This sensitive yet heart-warming depiction of relationships remains the lesser portrayed, harsher reality of life. An alternate ending, we ought to start accepting. 

Yours Lovingly,
Swetha Pillai.

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