Terwijl westerse filmmaatschappijen romcoms en romantische films maar blijven afschuiven op kleine feestdagen (Moedersdag, Valentijnsdag) met een klein budget en D-niveau acteurs, is er een plek waar de liefhebber van zachte, oppervlakkige, (absurd-)grappige romances nog terecht kan: Nigeria.
Want Isoken en The Wedding Party zijn niet de enige films in dit genre: misschien is het zelfs een subgenre: men moet trouwen maar oh jee [x] gebeurt! [x] kan hier vervangen worden door ruziënde families, bittere exen, rampzalige wedding planners of een combinatie van drie.
In het geval van Isoken is het De Liefde. Moet je gaan voor De Liefde of voor zekerheid? En in hoeverre moet je daarbij ook aan je familie denken (die is zéér belangrijk)?
Of het zelfspot van Nigeriaanse filmmakers is, of dit gewoon Nigeriaanse humor is, weet ik niet, maar al de slapstick-achtige situaties en karikaturale personages zorgen voor een lekker melig zooitje tussen de zoete momenten door.
Dus, kijk niet voor de veertiende keer Love Actually of Bridget Jones’ Diary maar zoek het eens zuidelijker.
Isoken, Tribe85 Productions 2017
It’s easy to judge this on many different levels and scoff a bit, but remember the target audience, and try to find some joy in your heart. I did.
This is the sequel to To All The Boys I loved Before. Mild spoilers for that one follow.
How long can a happy ending last? As everyone involved here are teenagers, the question might be a rhetorical one. Another crush shows up, and he seems much more nicer and attentive than Lara Jean’s boyfriend, oh no!
When not dating, worrying about dating and thinking of how to keep her boyfriend happy, Lara Jean has to deal with friendship, family and school as well. Actress Lana Condor makes sure she carries it well, even with those eye-rolling moments in which you just want to shake every teenager involved.
All of it is very cute and bright and sometimes very quirky, and all of it completely fits the bill and the people this has been made for. And – I admit almost with shame – for me as well.
To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, Netflix 2020
Never trust anything you read on the internet.
First romantic comedy of the year! Although both genres are just slightly represented; How to Hack a Heartbreak is mostly about being a woman in the tech world, and about dating online. The comedy is a tad sharper than you might expect, but both these subjects deserve some attention that isn’t just tongue-in-cheek.
That doesn’t mean that How to is a severe novel about the endless sexism both these worlds entail and a detailed deconstruction of it – it’s still a romantic novel after all. Still, the more realistic angle on the subject and of the protagonist’s thinking is pretty refreshing.
It makes the story of Melanie learning something about herself, her abilities and her (lack of) self-confidence easier to swallow. There might have been just one or two situations through which I rolled my eyes, and I’m pretty sure that was an expected reaction. All this, and a well-balanced happy ending, makes this a romance for the ’20s.
How to Hack a Heartbreak, Kirstin Rockaway, Harlequin 2019
Well done, New Zealand Tourism Bureau. I mean, how else did Netflix international come up with a story in which an American woman from San Francisco (plenty of scenery there!) ends up in a small town in New Zealand, where she doesn’t just find a defunct inn but also love (now you understand the title as well!)?
I was ready to be disappointed. Even though romance projects are pretty much allowed to be a collection of clichés, it doesn’t mean that the clichés are used correctly or too often. As a born kiwi I was ready to support the language and surroundings shown and zone out for the rest of it.
Was I pleasantly surprised! Yes, both characters and plot are made of cardboard, and maybe it’s solely the accent that makes things sound more heartfelt and less superficial. But Christina Milan is adorable without going overboard into Manic Pixie Quirky Girl, while her love-interest has enough appeal to make him believable as one (opposed to some romances Netflix tries to sell).
So no, nothing life-saving here, but quite right for your short, dark day-needs without feeling nauseous about saccharine sweetness.
Falling Inn Love, Netflix 2019
Tapton School, Sheffield, 2007
‘You loved me – then what right had you to leave me?
Ah, delicious by-the-numbers contemporary romance with just a few reminders of real life to not make it saccharine sweet. My kind of romance.
Boy meets girl, they fall in love, it’s the end of high school – fade out. Man meets woman, claims he absolutely can not remember her, even though she recognises him straight away. What’s going on? What happened during the fade out? And why is her mother less-than-supportive about pretty much everything she does?
Don’t You Forget About Me hits all the spots in chronological order, has the fun friends/side kicks (pleasantly fleshed out, that doesn’t always happen), and a few laugh-out-loud laughs.
Main Georgina sells it, though. Her frustrations, fears and self-doubt never get navelgazy or woe-is-me, but are (too) recognisable. She’s for the single women in their thirties, with the shitty job and the feeling of being without direction but unable to find the compass either.
I read McFarlane’s Who’s That Girl? before, and think I can conclude that for fun, romantic, quick-to-read time this author is a good fit.
Don’t You Forget About Me, Mhairi McFarlane, HarperCollins 2019
Francis Gleeson, tall and thin in his powder blue policeman’s uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that was the station house of the Forty-First Precinct.
I enjoy family stories. I’m quite the sucker for generational stories that sometimes are big and grand enough to be called family epics. It’s character based, sometimes with time and surroundings being an extra character, but simply about all the people involved (or some of them).
Ask Again, Yes shouldn’t be called epic. Maybe not even a family story. It somehow feels like it has picked the least exciting characters to hang the story up on, and then seems to just shrug about how they can’t carry whatever plot (points) they pass. Why not more information about the previous generation, their immigration, the world they moved into? Instead the reader gets childish stubbornness that never really gives any reason to warm up to it.
So, if you want the story of a family, and all of it, go for The Woo-Woo, or Run, Hide, Repeat or The Locals. They’ll give you something more enticing.
Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane, Scribner 2019
How much better would this movie have been with a female main character, and are there are well-known singers that have covered The Beatles?
Of course, it’s considerate that they didn’t make the entire cast of this film about one guy bringing The Beatles music to the masses white. The Beatles were white, after all. All this playing out in England, with a large immigrant population – why not have the protagonist be of Indian descent? Is it sad that we have to applaud this happening? Yeah.
Anyway, the plot. After a strange occurrence is Jack the only one that recognises The Beatles and their impact on music and pop culture. Having struggled as an artist before, he decides on bringing their music into the world again, working hard to remember all those lyrics. And getting incredibly famous on the way because wow – what music!
Along the way there are some Life Lessons and sometimes you wonder why Jack makes the decisions he does, but in a world where every other movie is a sequel or a reboot, it’s a slight fresh breath of air in the theatre. Or on any streaming service it will soon hit, no doubt.
Yesterday, Working Title 2019
By the time Briddey pulled into the parking garage at Commspan, there were forty-two text messages on her phone.
“You were so busy discovering if you could, that you didn’t spend time wondering if you should”, to paraphrase a certain fictional character involved with dinosaurs. Another subtitle could have been ‘Communication, are you sure it should be endless?’
And all that while I was recommended this novel as good representation of the romance genre. Maybe I should have known better, this author wrote Doomsday Book.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any romance (although it’s a spectacular slow burn), it just means it’s surrounded by the scientific element of getting an implant that will make you sensitive to the emotions and moods of your loved ones. Sounds like a bad idea, right?
It turns worse when some things happen that shouldn’t and some shouldn’t that should. Willis spends a lot of time on lore, which a bit too often leads to “I can’t tell you that right now!” cop outs. It’s the only frustrating thing about the novel, and the only thing that brings the tempo down.
Honestly, with certain elements going haywire, you could even use this book as an argument for taking internet- and social media use down a tad. The romance, and the lore, are bonuses.
Crosstalk, Connie Willis, Gollancz 2016
On that day in 1914, a young girl banged on the door of the Hôpital de la Miséricorde in Montreal.
Boy, does this author love her metaphors like a dog likes a bone. Don’t use them as a drinking game, you will end up in the hospital. Even though it’s becoming quite noticeable after a while, I have to admit that they add to the fairy-tale like feeling this story already has. The development and rise of orphans in Great Depression North America, involving clowns and mobsters, maybe they deserve a metaphor every other sentence.
Main characters are Pierrot and Rose and share the chapters whenever they are together or apart. They’ve got very different views on life and what they want from it; making the fairy-tale like feeling disappear before it can give a (happy) end.
Besides that, there’s the surroundings this plays out in. Montreal with its alive snow, New York with the buildings full of possibilities and risks. It’s all written very visually, which neatly distracts from the small plot holes or just hiccups it provides. This story is pretty and enticing; everything else is subordinate to it.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill, Riverhead Books 2018
Na Duckbutter was ik weer voorzichtig om nog een ‘wlw’ (women loving women) film uit te kiezen, maar iets met ezels. Of volharding, want er moeten toch lieve romances met vrouwen zijn gemaakt de afgelopen twintig jaar.
The Feels begint in ieder geval al met een luchtiger element: tijdens een vrijgezellenfeest komt men er achter dat één van de twee verloofden nog nooit een orgasme heeft gehad. Haha, seksgrapjes! Alleen heeft ene verloofde al die tijd wel gedaan alsof seks orgasmes opleverde dus ineens …iets minder grappig, want hoe moet je daar mee omgaan als je dat net voor je bruiloft te horen krijgt?
Het komische deel komt dan ook van de mensen om het stel heen, plus het soort grapjes-uit-ongemak waar vrouwen een alleenrecht op lijken te hebben. Gooi er twee mensen bij die standaard het verkeerde zeggen en je hebt een verzameling van ‘ai, oeps’.
De charmes van dit filmpje komen dan ook vanaf de vreemde figuren die hier verzameld zijn én dat ze zichzelf mogen ontwikkelen naar (enig) zelfinzicht. En dat lukt ze nog ook zonder een excessieve hoeveelheid van letterlijk blootgeven.
Ik blijf zoeken.
The Feels, Netflix 2017