This is not to say that movies are the best source of relationship advice but you have to admit that they may have some wisdom waiting to be gleaned.  

We can’t get enough of movies that tackle love and romantic relationships because these subjects deeply resonate among humans regardless of time and space. Such is evident in some of the recent romantic movies that I had the chance to watch. Interestingly, the movies listed here come from different genres, employing narrative and filmmaking devices that are not traditionally used in romantic dramas. These movies are not necessarily straightforward in conveying the moral of the story, and would rather that the audience discerns the theme based on their subjective experience than to spoon-feed it through the plot, dialogues or characterizations.

And that’s exactly how I approached watching these movies and extracting the lessons discussed in this article, hoping that whether or not you’ve seen them, you could at least pick up something useful in how you deal with your own relationship dilemmas.

Warm Bodies

Lesson: Memories of love can revive a dying relationship.

Warm Bodies theatrical posterCredit:“Warm Bodies” is a post-apocalyptic romantic comedy of Twilight proportions. It tells the story of a zombie who falls in love with a girl after munching on the brain of her ex. So you see, there’s dark romance and then there’s gory romance.

Now before I get to the lesson in all this, let me just remind you of at least two things we know about zombies: (1) they become morally capable of feeding on people after losing their memories; and (2) they have special cravings for human brain. R, our lead zombie, went to hunt one day with a band of hungry corpses who knew well enough that they should stick together and were lucky to encounter a team of human scavengers to feast on.

R, who is also our narrator, helped himself to its team leader, and Julie’s ex-boyfriend, Perry. As he feed on him, he shows us why the brain is the most delicious part of a human carcass. Apparently, as zombies eat brain, they get possessed with sparks of their prey’s memory in the form of dream sequences. So when R laid eyes on Julie right after his meal, Perry's memory of her struck a connection he could not explain. Most of us, humans, call it love but for our lead zombie, it’s just an instinct to protect the girl and keep her safe home.

After a few Twilight moments and romantic comedy montages, it is revealed to us that as zombies continue to perceive and experience memories of love, they gain back their ability to speak and interact. Their hearts start beating again, they start sleeping and dreaming, and eventually, they get cured.

Taking this odd zombie plot as a metaphor to a dying relationship, we are told that maybe relationships could turn sour as the years passed but this is not enough reason to give up on love. Try remembering the good times you spent with your partner and hope that reliving those moments could save the relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, Julie is not as naïve as Bella Swan. She went along with R completely guarded. When she had the chance to escape from her zombie friend, she did not think twice.

There are plenty of reasons to hope for the relationship to stay afloat but remember that you have already managed to hurt each other before. That antagonism could still be there. Like Julie, you should thread this risky path towards saving the relationship with a guarded heart… and brain.

This trailer spoils it better than I did

To the Wonder

Lesson: Falling in love with someone is different from loving someone.

This recent romantic film by Terrence Malick stars Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem in an assortment of muted yet ponderous narratives about love and everything that comes with it.

To the Wonder theatrical posterCredit:“To the Wonder” begins showing Ukrainian-born Marina (Kurylenko) and American Neil (Affleck) fall in love in France. They travel to the island of Mont St. Michel one day, and inspired by the stuff that gets in your head when in such a splendid place, decide to move to the States (in Oklahoma) with Marina’s 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana.

Neil works as an environmental inspector. Things started out well for them but as he immersed in his field work, Marina and her daughter began feeling more and more alienated and bored in their new milieu. Marina found solace in the sermons of a parish priest (Bardem) whose own devotion to his calling was being challenged. Coincidentally, Marina’s visa expired, which gave her no other choice but to fly back to Paris.

Meanwhile, Neil had a chance encounter with his old flame, Jane (McAdams). He fell in love with her just in time he heard from Marina who is alone now that Tatiana is sent to live with his father. Neil had to choose Marina who he married to fulfill a commitment he made not so long ago. But as she gets bored by the life of a housewife who does not know a thing or two about staying in a suburban home and who has frequently attempted to get away from it, what was once a passionate love affair turned violent.

One lesson to take from this story is that you should avoid diving into a romantic relationship with someone you are no longer in love with. But being in love is different from loving someone. Science has explained to us clearly the difference between the two.  Falling in love happens in a fifth of a second. That spark turns into a feeling of affection almost comparable to addiction, which eventually leads to a primal need to always be together, and voila! a relationship.

But soon enough, you will lose the spark that created the relationship in the first place. What remains are the memories (see the lesson from “Warm Bodies”) of the times that you spent together. These memories, consciously and subconsciously, remind you of the connection you had. The thought of that connection makes you feel secure and content that you will try your best to keep the relationship as if it means survival for you.

At first, you would think that Neil took in Marina simply out of pity, but on a second look, it is Neil’s brain chemicals working to preserve and extend the memories of the love he used to have for Marina.[1]

The visual narrative is all you need to be inspired by this film

Beautiful Creatures

Lesson: Sometimes you just have to let go and hope for a new start.

Beautiful CreaturesCredit: idea of a romantic comedy merged with a young adult dark fantasy sounds like a Tim Burton offshoot but this one does not have a lot of the latter which is good for its own sake. Although the end result is not as gratifying, the film would at least entertain you with witty dialogues and great acting from veterans, Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson.

Never mind the convoluted storytelling, “Beautiful Creatures” is easily charming even for non-teenagers. The main characters pay homage to our lovable outcast stereotypes. You have Ethan, a well-read junior— relative to his small town standards—constantly in search for something new and dreams to go out of town and explore the world. He meets the new student, mysteriously beautiful and shattered orphan, Lena, who is now living with his uncle.

From here on, high school dynamics play in, complete with your pretty and popular bullies. But instead of cheerleaders playing the role, our bullies are a couple of conservative fundamentalist Christians who believe that Lena, the niece of reclusive Macon Ravenwood, is the devil incarnate—which turns out to be a half-truth. Lena, Macon and a bunch of other characters are creatures known as casters. (“Witch,” mind you, is a derogatory term.)

Lena is the daughter of a dark caster whose power allows her to possess humans in the absence of her own body. When they turn 16, female casters will be claimed by the light or the dark based on their true nature. Lena is turning 16 when he met Ethan who, of course, fell madly in love with her, and has fallen even more in love after finding out about her supernatural identity.

Easily, you would think that the conflict would just spring out of Lena’s dark nature which Ethan refuses to believe she has despite her lineage and aloof personality. But then as the story progresses, we learn that Ethan, the human, is more fatefully involved in Lena’s story than he chooses to be. Skipping that story arc and more reversed Twilight moments, we end up with Lena learning about a curse on her bloodline that will only end if someone she loves die before she is claimed. Skipping that story arc and more reversed Twilight moments, we end up with Lena deciding to erase Ethan’s memory of their short-lived relationship in her attempt to guard off the curse. And the rest, you should really watch for yourself.

The last scenes of the movie show Ethan meeting Lena again and for the first time at the public library before he goes on a trip to NYU for his college application. Everything seems to feel right this time around which includes the sudden surge of Lena-related déjà vus he couldn’t explain. Hence, our lesson.

Perhaps the complex plot and numerous sub-plots are all part of the metaphor that is young love. Both Ethan and Lena are young adults in search of their identities. Finding each other in the midst of their journeys was an awesome feeling but then again, it put a halt on their soul-searching and completely muddled their vision.

Lena decided to sacrifice the relationship to give her self the break she needed in order to accept her identity and patch things up with her past. She was literally on the brink of going dark but  thanks to her sound decision, she, Ethan and the world are saved.

Giving up on the relationship does not mean giving up on love. You need to be strong enough as an individual so you can share a meaningful relationship with someone. Let go of a destructive relationship and who knows when the time is ripe again to start anew.

It's more fun that it looks