Nate von Zumwalt
For many, Valentine’s Day conjures images of couples sprawled across love seats, seductively dropping chocolate truffles into one another’s mouths, all the while gorging on the cinematic bonbons also known as sentimental romantic comedies. Or maybe that’s just me. And while we can’t rectify all of these Valentine’s Day calamities, we can offer a corrective to the crappy films via this curated collection of love stories from the Sundance Film Festival archives. Happy Valentine’s Day from Sundance Institute.
Intended Audience: Old souls and hopeless romantics.
A modern day musical (arguably) for the masses, John Carney’s Once is among the most well-received Festival films of all time. (It was, after all, the 2007 World Cinema Audience Award winner). Charge me with hyperbolic speech now, but thank me after you treat yourself to this Irish love story adorned with soothing melodies and a naturalistic form. Though the two leads are musicians by trade, their on-screen chemistry makes for a pair of poignant performances.
2. LIKE CRAZY
Intended Audience: Young lovers, and anyone fond of cute English girls.
When you unabashedly brand your debut feature with the title Douchebag, you haven’t exactly primed your fans to anticipate you’ll follow it up with a quintessential romantic drama that happens to take home the Grand Jury Prize, just for kicks. Unless you’re Drake Doremus. Like Crazy invokes gut-wrenching performances from two exceptional young actors in this refreshing take on the suffering inherent to long-distance relationships. For her part, Felicity Jones took home a Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Festival, and Anton Yelchin is anything but a slouch.
3. BLUE VALENTINE
Intended Audience: Those going through a breakup. Those looking to facilitate a breakup.
The title really says it all. There is nothing charming nor cheerful about Blue Valentine. Derek Cianfrance’s character-driven drama features brilliant performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who play a couple bent on saving their withered relationship. Cianfrance shapes a narrative that shifts seamlessly between diametric stages of a relationship, ultimately portraying the rawest of love stories in a couple’s search for something that may have never existed. If nothing else, Derek Cianfrance is a genius at minimizing Ryan Gosling to a creepy, needy man hiding behind a bushy mustache and a hideous sweatshirt with a giant eagle decal.
4. ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW
ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW
Intended Audience: Existentialists
Miranda July’s debut feature earned a Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the 2005 Festival, and frankly, its idiosyncratic (dare we say quirky) freshness warrants such a finely tailored award. At its core, Me and You and Everyone We Know is an examination of human connections with a unique and nuanced approach to depicting the challenges we all face in finding love.
5. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
500 DAYS OF SUMMER
Intended Audience: From young to old, single to polygamous, it’s a film for everyone.
It’s a nod to 21st century urban romance, and a do-it-all film that dismisses the perceived boundaries of romantic dramas. Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer casts Sundance vet Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in starkly contrasting—but equally impressive—roles. Beautifully structured and dominated by inventive montage sequences, Webb’s feature tracks the 500 days of a couple’s relationship—or more aptly, the period of Gordon-Levitt’s mostly unrequited love.