Sad Love Stories That Leave You Wanting More
Written by Diomarys Mendez
The theme of unrequited or unfulfilled love is one that has been uniquely retold time and time again. Stories of longing, lingering passion, and hope for an intangible love can evoke empathy, nostalgia, and melancholy.
Today, I will be recommending three foreign films with very different meditations on love, but that will all leave you wanting more.
In The Mood for Love (pictured above)
In the Mood for Love was directed by Wong Kar Wai in 2001. It is set in 1960s Hong Kong and follows two characters, Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) and Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung), who develop a tragic love story through their unfulfilled marriages.
The story is a powerful reflection on oppressed love and is both a technical achievement and a poetic musing on human longing. This atmospheric film effectively portrays quiet and intense desire by playing with time through repetition/slow-motion, framing, body language, and dialogue. Thus, the audience feels the gradual heightening of emotions boiling under the surface of these two characters’ interactions, but that ultimately leaves no trace.
2018 Palme d'Or-winning film Shoplifters is a unique tale that explores the meaning of family. It raises the idea that one does not have to be limited to bloodlines, but can instead choose what family to belong to. Along with the overarching theme of what constitutes a family, the film also poses many important questions about poverty, government and societal neglect, and social norms.
The film begins with an impoverished family that essentially kidnaps a young girl and introduces her to their way of surviving. Although at times questionable, the actions taken by each member of the Shibata household stem from love.
This story is tender and complex, and director Hirokazu Kore-eda skillfully peels away the layers, revealing secrets about the family in a slow yet fluid pace. This film felt very authentic because it allowed the audience to observe the dynamic of this family in an environment free of judgment. In addition, the performances in Shoplifters were exquisite, and the cinematic language, although complicated, visually translated the narrative to the screen beautifully and seamlessly.
Kore-eda masterfully tells a story about compassion and love, challenging audiences to rethink the definition of family. Shoplifters is an honest yet tragic account about the lives of these complex characters, who briefly come together to embark on a journey where they discover the meaning of familial love.
Us and Them
“Happiness is not a story. Misfortune is,” Qing Jian muses in Us and Them. This cynical statement from the film encapsulates the tone and overall driving force of this story.
Rene Liu’s directorial debut tells the story of two characters, Qing Jian (Boran Jing) and Xiao Xiao (Dongyu Zhou), and their decade-long relationship, along with all the natural unfolding and undoing that happens during that time. Us and Them has many themes, but it mainly examines the contrast between the effects of personal change on an individual versus their relationships. The film shows how, at times, the steps necessary to grow can ironically result from mistakes made and connections lost.
The underlying tragedy of this story lies in the characters’ inability to communicate and express their love for one another, which eventually leads to them parting ways. Through flashbacks and moments of silence, we see how these two characters reflect on and cope with love lost, and the unbearable truth of not being able to turn back time to change the outcome. This nostalgic film reminisces on the sweet and sour seasons of love and essentially asks, If you had the chance to see a past lover one more time, what would you do and say?
Although very different, each of these three films interprets the many flavors that love has to offer and leaves audiences weeping and profoundly moved.
Are you ready to bring out the tissues and embark on these journeys?
Diomarys Mendez is a film lover and has dedicated her life to creating and providing more diverse narratives in the film and music scene. Diomarys has a background in Business, Music, and Theater and lives in New York City.