It’s one of cinema’s most enduring genres, perhaps stemming from one of life’s universal truths: when it comes to love, its unavoidable ups and downs, and the fact that the path to romance rarely proves smooth, sometimes all you can do is laugh. That’s the reality that romantic comedies serve up on screen with equal dashes of humour and heart. That, and the awkwardness of meet-cutes, the nerve-wracking will-they-or-won’t-they banter, the grand gestures and sweeping, life-defining moments.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, obviously, which is another of the genre’s charms. Even when the overall rom-com mechanics remain the same – people meet, connect and try to follow their feelings towards a happy future – the details can veer off in countless directions. Indeed, that’s what keeps fans coming back for more light-hearted love stories, including these eight standouts now streaming at SBS On Demand.
The Beauty Inside
Woo-jin (Seo Joon Park) has a surprising secret: each day, he wakes up in a different body, and sometimes a different age, gender and nationality. While he constantly shifts on the outside, inside he is always the same. In this topsy-turvy world, his one constant is the woman he loves, Yi-soo (Hyo-Ju Han). With each transformation, Woo-jin has to figure out how to return to his own body and reunite with Yi-soo. From Korea.
Five Flights Up
Beloved actors and Oscar-winning legends, Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play Alex and Ruth Carver. Married for 40 years, the Carvers moved into their Brooklyn walk-up apartment as newlyweds in the seventies, and as they age, they’re being encouraged to consider moving to a more practical abode. Freeman and Keaton flow together with delicious harmony, navigating the ruthless world of real estate, the illness of their dear dog, and renewing their sense of what it means to be home. This movie is a delight. Cynthia Nixon co-stars.
Eagle vs Shark
Before he tickled funny bones with Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, dallied with the undead in What We Do in the Shadows, soared into the superhero realm with Thor: Ragnarok and parodied Hitler with the upcoming Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi made an endearing rom-com.
Shy aspiring songwriter Lily (Loren Horsley) and her video game store employee crush Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) are the epitome of awkwardness as they explore their seemingly unlikely connection, but they also couldn’t be more relatable. And that is this sometimes whimsical, always emotionally resonant New Zealand film in a nutshell.
2 Days in Paris
Julie Delpy writes, directs, produces and stars in this jet-setting rom-com – and composed the soundtrack, too. It’s a powerhouse effort, especially given that 2 Days in Paris is such a savvy take on a familiar premise. Where the Before series saw Delpy co-star with Ethan Hawke as lovers who meet unexpectedly, go their separate ways and then come back together, here she’s one half of a couple (opposite Adam Goldberg) who venture to the titular city during a holiday to reignite their romance. Stepping back onto Marion’s (Delpy) home turf and meeting her parents, as well as exposing Jack (Goldberg) to her old life – and loves – unsurprisingly proves revelatory and charmingly complicated.
2 Days in New York
Not content with boasting one romantic film series to her name (aka Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight), Julie Delpy added a second when she followed up her 2007 rom-com 2 Days in Paris with this 2012 sequel, 2 Days in New York.
The fiercely neurotic Marion (Delpy) is now in a new relationship with Mingus (Chris Rock), and rather than vacationing in France and meeting her parents, this time her family are coming to her. As well as screwball scenarios, there’s a keen sense of observation to Delpy’s duo of movies, delving behind the glossy rom-com sheen to explore the messy reality of trying to share your life with anyone.
Hello I Must Be Going
One of today’s under-sung performers on both the big and small screens, New Zealand’s Melanie Lynskey is a masterful delight in Hello I Must Be Going, playing a divorceé endeavouring to get on with her life.
Amy Minsky is as unhappy as anyone would be given her situation, especially given that she’s also unemployed, moving back in with her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein) in Connecticut and subject to plenty of people telling her what she should do now. Then she embarks on an unexpected, highly secret affair with a young aspiring actor (Christopher Abbott), in a movie that’s as much a soul-searching rom-com as a fine-tuned character study.
Come for the spot-on Dirty Dancing dance scene involving the ’80s film’s famous big lift, stay for a snappy, breezy rom-com with two captivating performances by French stars Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis.
He breaks up couples for a living – hence the movie’s title – while she’s his latest soon-to-be-single target. Of course, his job doesn’t go smoothly, sparking plenty of vigorous banter and energetic rapport between the two charismatic stars. It’s a shamelessly fluffy caper, which earned two Cesar nominations and marked one of the last features by director Pascal Chaumeil – and it’s perfectly cast.
Let the Sunshine In
Surprisingly, Let the Sunshine In is the first collaboration between two of French cinema’s most formidable women: Juliette Binoche and director Claire Denis. It isn’t their last, thanks to the vastly different sci-fi drama High Life, and hopefully more will follow.
Binoche is in particularly potent form as a 50-something woman getting over her failed marriage by looking for love – and indulging her lust – in other places, while Denis adds thoughtful rom-coms to the lengthy list of genres she has conquered. The fact that this is a rare romance-oriented affair that gives time to a mature female protagonist ranks among Let the Sunshine In’s many highlights.