For the day that’s in it. As dependable as yer average rom-com might be, sometimes the most touching moments of romance spring from the most unlikely sources – here are four diamonds in rather rough films.
Disco Pigs – King and Queen
Enda Walsh’s play-turned-film is a savage Cork-flavoured beast starring Cillian Murphy and Elaine as Pig and Runt, teenagers who have been best friends since birth. The two are locked in an all-consuming relationship, speaking a private cant, weaving joint fantasies and scornfully rejecting the rest of the world. However, things are reaching a breaking point – Pig has begun to think confusing thoughts about his best friend, and Runt is growing increasingly alarmed by Pig’s violent outbursts.
Amid a rapidly unravelling birthday night out bookended by bloodshed, Pig steals a moment to try to draw Runt into his favourite recurring fantasy – the two of them together as king and queen, glorying together in their oneness.
It’s bleak and desperate, but damned if it doesn’t have a certain dreadful charm.
Atonement – The Library
I would argue there are many smaller and more affecting moments to note in this film – Robbie caressing the surface of the pond that so recently held Cecelia’s form, or faltering in his tea-stirring as Cecilia lays her hand on his.
However, the library is of course what the whole slightly overblown thing hinges on, in more ways than one. It’s hard to resist the sumptuous light and colour and detail – deep wood, tuxedo, that unforgettable emerald dress, the breakdown of crisp RP delivery, the absence of any soundtrack other than a gently ticking clock and the mortal drama of gasps and clothing.
While it’s difficult to call Atonement “twisted”, this scene is an oasis of human closeness (however ill-judged) amid arid sands of misunderstanding, repression and bloodshed.
Blue Velvet – At the Party
Blue Velvet doesn’t make it onto many Valentine’s Day lists, and it’s not hard to see why. Terrifying Dennis Hopper, hysterical and sexually off-colour Isabella Rosselini, amputated ears and escalating creepiness do not a classic romance make. However, the surrounding terror makes this scene all the sweeter – somehow MacLachlan’s slightly peculiar amateur detective and Dern’s wholesome girl-next-door are hitting it off, and take a night off from increasing chaos to go to a party. They wander onto the dancefloor, a little awkwardly, and take their place amid other fresh-faced couples. As they put their arms around each other, Julee Cruise’s voice drifts in, and the two fall under each other’s spell – they kiss, they smile, and they whisper their first “I love you”s.
Simple, real and sweet – a squeaky-clean respite from the grimy discomfort of the rest of the film. Check out the sublime Anthony and the Johnsons cover version too.
Troubled, lonely Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim) is out alone, running barefoot through the streets, as concerned priest-with-a-secret Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) has warned her not to do. She freezes as she spots a dark figure ahead, recognises Sang-hyeon and turns to flee. The figure catches up with superhuman speed and grabs her, but then steps gracefully out of his own shoes and lifts her gently into them. Wordless, balletic and tender.