Wednesday, June 27, 2012

50 Favorite Romances: The Slow Burning Ones

Also see 1-10: The Sweet Ones and 11-20: The Sexy Ones.

Some romantic movies feature couples that start dating and/or humping from the get-go, but others offer delightfully slow-burning stories filled with meaningful glances and tension and inconvenient circumstances and RULES OF SOCIETY THAT WILL KEEP US APART. Sometimes these social obstacles can be overcome, sometimes not, but you are filled with delightful angst the whole time about WILL THEY OR WON'T THEY? AND GODDAMMIT, JUST DO IT. These are some of my favorites in this genre:

21. The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Stop torturing me with the delicious-looking mimosas and tell her the goddamn truth!
Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are the delightfully handsome and smooth-talking titular Bloom brothers who have made their living running elaborate cons. Adrien has decided he wants to get out of the dishonesty game, but Mark convinces him to join him on one more job, which involves scamming a beautiful and kind of weird heiress (Rachel Weisz). They convince Weisz' character that they are international smugglers (which is not too far from the truth) to get her to invest in them and join them for a larceny-filled trip around the world. But Adrien Brody actually falls in love with her! But they are still conning her! And he can't break his promises to Mark Ruffalo and break their cover! Most of this movie I was yelling at Adrien Brody to just tell her what was actually going on, but it was adorable anyway. Also, Adrien Brody DUH.

22. Cairo Time (2009)
Just grab each other, already!
The always-delightful Patricia Clarkson is a successful magazine editor married to some sort of fancy U.N. worker who spends much of his time abroad creating peace in the Middle East or whatever. They're supposed to meet for an extended vacation in Egypt, when the husband gets caught up in Gaza or something. So the husband enlists an old friend from the U.N., dreamy, dreamy Alexander Siddig, who lives in Cairo now to keep her entertained until he can get to town. Over the course of a few weeks, two grow close and realize they are attracted to each other as they see the Egyptian sights together. But she loves her husband and he is the husband's friend and WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

23. Coffee Prince (2007)
How fucking cute are they?
Yes, this is the Korean drama that sparked my recent binge. It is so good, you guys. It was originally based on a novel and developed into a seventeen-episode series. Basically, Han Gyul is the handsome and rich heir to some sort of giant food company or something. Yoo Joo is an adorably awkward tomboy who is often mistaken for a boy and is her family's breadwinner. In a series of unlikely events, Han Gyul hires Yoo Joo for various jobs (including fake boyfriend and as a server at an all-male-staffed coffee shop) assuming that she's a boy. Yoo Joo needs the money, so she goes along with it, but it gets complicated when she starts to like Han Gyul and he gets really confused when he starts to like Yoo Joo, because he is not gay! Or is he? What will happen? Can he overcome internalized homophobia? Can she tell him the truth? Will he still like her? Or will she end up with his cousin who is a super-adorable music producer and is way nicer to her most of the time? You will have to watch to find out and probably laugh and cry a lot along the way. FEELINGS and lots of bro-related but secretly filled-with-sexual-tension roughhousing, guys.

24. Doc Martin (2004-2011)
Being held hostage together brings anybody together.
The British series Doc Martin's main love story is similar in many ways to the central relationship in another of my favorite shows The X-Files. See, Mulder and Scully (Doc Martin and Louisa) are clearly into each other, but just can't make it happen except sometimes there are glimpses of hope (and then real hook-ups), but when you actually think about it, Mulder/Doc Martin would be a terrible partner and Scully/Louisa would be better off without him, but it is just TV so you cheer for them anyway. Martin Clunes is the completely socially incompetent but brilliant Doctor Martin who moves to a small Cornwallish coastal town, where he begins a long and super-awkward flirtation with local schoolteacher Louisa. But he has developed a fear of blood! And she is too normal and pretty for him! What small-town shenanigans will ensue? (It's got a bit of a Northern Exposure vibe to it.) Will he be able to overcome his own terrible personality to make it work with Louisa? That is why there are, like, five seasons people!

25. Happy Accidents (2000)
No but seriously, I'm totally from the future.
Guys, Marisa Tomei is a neurotic lady who keeps picking terrible men who need "fixing" to have relationships with. Vincent D'Onofrio is from the future. Or so he says, after he gets to know her a little bit. He claims he's from the U.S.'s east coast (which is now in Iowa) far in the future, where he found a photograph of her in New York in the late twentieth century in a curio shop. He falls in love and uses time traveling technology that totally exists or whatever to come back and find her (and save her from her tragic traffic accident death). She doesn't really believe him, but falls in love with him anyway, but then maybe she believes him, and then it's like, can they really stop fate from killing her off? Or will he have to travel back in time over and over again, trying to change things? And also it's cute and weird and cute. The end.

26. Kissing Cousins (2008)
Pretending to be in a relationship is dangerous, y'all.
Kissing Cousins is a kind of low-budget, cheesy indie romantic comedy that Netflix just knew I would like. Amir breaks up with people for a living. Like, people hire him to break up for them. Which is, of course, a real job in L.A. or whatever. His friends are like, "Your job kind of makes you an asshole and also maybe you should get over that one time you got your heart broken and try to have a new relationship like a grown-up." And he is like, "I can totally have a healthy relationship despite my job." (Hint: he can't, he is too cynical.) Conveniently, Amir's (first) cousin Zara, who he hasn't seen since they were children comes to visit from the U.K. under somewhat mysterious circumstances and must stay with him for an extended period of time and also does not want to talk to her family when they call and sketchy sketch sketch. She is amused by Amir's situation and suggests they pretend to be a couple to mess with his friends. But the ruse goes on a little too long and maybe they are actually into each other? But they're like, "But we're cousins!" But it's not like they were raised together like siblings or something and they could totally get married in California and when it comes to my actual first cousins, I'd be like, ew, but none of them are as hot as Amir, so whatever SOCIAL CONVENTIONS ARE INCONVENIENT.

27. Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
It's not awkward that I married your sister, is it?
In Mama Elena's family in early twentieth century Mexico, the youngest daughter in the family never marries, but instead stays to take care of her mother as she ages. Tita, Elena's youngest, falls in love with Pedro, but Elena will not let them get married. So instead she's like, "Hey Pedro, you can marry Tita's sister Rosaura" and he does because he wants to stay close to Tita and clearly this is an appropriate solution. And they all live in one house happily ever after! Just kidding! Tita and Pedro are still in love and also there is this whole plot point where Tita's cooking has magical emotional properties. Whatever she's feeling when she makes the food, the people who eat it will feel the same. Magico-realismo, people! How will they manage to survive (emotionally) for the rest of their lives under one roof? Forbidden love, food porn, feelings, tension, beautiful scenery and costuming. It's a good one.

28. (Her Majesty,) Mrs. Brown (1997)
They're touching!
I like to think of this as the logical follow-up to The Young Victoria, featured on an earlier list since it could just be called The Older Victoria AKA After Albert Dies and She's Really Depressed for a Lot of Years. Queen Victoria (Dame Judi Dench, obvs) kind of hid from public after her beloved husband's death, and even the presence of her seemingly dozens of offspring cannot console her, nor will her sense of duty to her royal subjects shake her from her self-imposed grieving isolation. But then! But then servant Mr. Brown (Billy Connolly, at his charmingest) makes an appearance at Balmoral Castle, the late prince's favorite hangout. He's all Scottish and rough and sensitive. He wears kilts and understands the queen and takes her out riding and it is sweet sweet sweet. They become close friends, causing no little amount of gossip ("Mrs. Brown" is her detractors' nickname for her). He encourages to go back to public life, and she knows she must. Bittersweet. Lovely. Unspoken Victorian feelings (literally). Watch it.

29. North and South (2004)
"You don't need Henry to explain."
When I first read Elizabeth Gaskell's novel in a European history class in college, I was mostly like, "Shut up about the social unrest and all the labor strikes and more of the unlikely romance PLZ." Luckily this 2004 BBC miniseries adaptation plays to its strengths. Margaret Hale's family must pack up and move away from their idyllic Southern parsonage because her father's "lost his faith" or something. They settle in Milton, a dirty town full of, you guessed it, mills in the North of England. The Hales soon encounter Mr. Thornton (AKA Richard Armitage's smo(u)ldering glare), a wealthy mill owner with impending labor troubles. The regional differences lead to antagonism between Margaret and Mr. Thornton, but I think it would not surprise you to learn that hardship, personal tragedies, labor strikes, social misunderstandings, mob violence, and the like slowly bring the two together. Smolder, smolder, smolder.

30. Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Oh, what an awkward coincidence that I should be here when you're all wet!
Duh and duh. Classic romantic comedy ploy: the two hate each other but then not really at all later on. This miniseries version is clearly superior to any other adaptations of the classic Jane Austen novel, but the 2008 TV miniseries Lost in Austen involving a modern woman obsessed with the novel who magically switches places with the fictional Elizabeth Bennett it totally cute and worth a watch too.

31. Sweet Land (2005)
Don't worry, I'm just this awkward all the time.
This romance is the epitome of "understated." In the wake of World War I, Norwegian bachelor farmer Olaf sends for a bride in Europe to come join him and make a go of it in rural Minnesota. Unfortunately, when Inge arrives it turns out she's actually German (scandal!) and doesn't seem to have the correct paperwork to make their marriage legal. Olaf's community is not okay with Inge being German and refuse to help them get married. In the meantime, Inge refuses to go back to Europe and settles in first with Olaf's friend Alan Cumming (adorbs, as always) and his family and then actually in Olaf's house (scandal beyond scandal!). Olaf is SO AWKWARD with her you guys, but he likes her. He can speak some German, but she speaks no English, so she's pretty isolated in addition to being hated because she's one of those dirty Huns and all. But she's spunky and pretty and determined to make this situation work, and she and Olaf (mostly silently and awkwardly) slowly fall in love and decide to make it official even if no one else will agree to it.

32. Wives and Daughters (1999)
Let's go look at some bugs!
Another miniseries based on an Elizabeth Gaskell novel, this story follows Molly Gibson, the apple of her doctor father's widowed eye. But then suddenly Mr. Gibson decides to remarry, and Molly is subject to a completely ridiculous stepmother with an exciting but also kind of ridiculous daughter of her own. In the meantime, Molly is basically adopted as a surrogate daughter by the wealthy Hamley family as she helps nurse their dying mother. Brother Osborne is filled with scandal and disappointment for his father, the Squire, but brother Roger goes on to surprise everyone by becoming a famous naturalist. Molly is entangled in the shenanigans of her stepfamily and the Hamleys and in the meantime develops feelings for Roger, who mostly thinks of her as a younger sister-type. But will he always see her this way? WILL HE? I should warn you that Gaskell never finished this novel, so the conclusion is a bit truncated if (SPOILER ALERT) mostly satisfying.


  1. So much yes on this portion of your list except recommending "Lost in Austen." That miniseries was soooooooo baaaaaaad.

  2. I enjoyed it despite its cheesiness. But perhaps we can call it even on that whole "(500) Days of Summer" faux pas of yours?

  3. I just did a google search on "list of slow burn romance movies" and this came up. This is such a great list. I've been looking for new slow burns to watch since I've watched North and South and Pride and Prejudice waaay too many times. Your blog is great. Thank you for giving me ideas on what to watch!

  4. I'm not sure there's "too many" times for N&S or P&P, but it's good to take a break in between viewings probably. I recently rewatched "Mrs. Brown," and SPOILER ALERT remembered how agonizing/wonderful/painful unconsummated filmic love stories are.