A love and hate relationship with romance films
A film to fall for and one to break up with.
Love—Your Eyes Tell (2020)
We have all seen it, whether it was in a book or a movie: the Bad Guy and Good Girl trope. Your Eyes Tell, a Japanese remake of the South Korean love story Always, is no exception. The bad guy leaves his dangerous lifestyle to make the good girl happy, they fall in love, then split for some time only to reunite in a state of clarity. The beauty of Your Eyes Tell is that there is more substance to it than just “bad boy protects innocent and helpless good girl.”
Akari Kashiwagi (Yuriko Yoshitaka), the 9-to-5-working female lead, meets Rui Shinozaki (Ryûsei Yokohama), an ex-kickboxer with ties to the mob. The entire plot hinges on the fact that Akari is blind. This way, to my great delight, we dodge the tired Love at First Sight trope.
Unlike the male lead in many modern romance stories, Rui does not impose this creepy presence or self-entitled ownership over Akari. There is no whirlwind romance that happens outside time where the characters suddenly do not have jobs to worry about. Both Akari and Rui have depth; external forces affect them individually before flowing into their connected story. There is a layer of realism that makes Your Eyes Tell a story of humans, not just pure passion. With this Slow Burn trope, Akari and Rui spend the whole film getting to know what love feels like.
On top of being a reimagined bad boy love story, Your Eyes Tell’s eponymous theme song poses a stunning motif of where the line between physical barriers and the human instinct to love through pain blends. It is a gorgeous story of love, angst, societal pressure, and health—physical, mental, or otherwise. Not to mention that it made me cry at least four times, as all good romance films should.
Hate—The Notebook (2004)
Confession time: I am a fan of the romance genre. Be it a book, show, movie, or play, you will find me there ready to eat it up. No-nonsense love stories will always hold a special place in my heart. With that context, I need it to be known that I hate The Notebook, which may be a controversial opinion.
Set in the early 1940s, The Notebook shows poor labourer Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and wealthy Southern belle Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) fall in love. The rest of the film follows the tumultuous nature of their love affair over 60 odd years.
So far so good, right? The plot reads like every other sweep-you-off-your-feet romance of the late ’90s and early 2000s. Where The Notebook went wrong was early on; the scene where Allie and Noah first meet is what turned me off from the film. Allie is on a date, and Noah—in love at first sight—vies for her attention. He goes so far as to threaten to kill himself (via falling off a Ferris wheel) right in front of her if she does not agree to a date.
Manipulating someone into a relationship is gross. I could not enjoy Allie and Noah’s epic romance because of their toxic start and never will. I want my protagonists to be genuinely in love, not held hostage by one party. Do yourself a favour and watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai instead.