My first favourite director was Hal Hartley, born from seeing and loving his first two features; The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990). Trust might not be typically classed as a romcom – the romance doesn’t drive the narrative and the comedy is decidedly dark – but it is hands down my favourite.
Adrienne Shelly is heartbreakingly good as petulant and spoiled teen Maria who is thrown out of home and befriends angry Matthew (Martin Donovan), who sees her as a kindred spirit. The focus is not on their connection as much as it is the transformation of Maria. It touches on death, suicide, abortion, family dysfunction and divorce whilst celebrating female independence – not your average romcom.
In an interview with Grant Phipps from Tone Madison before a screening of a restored 35mm print of the film last year, Hal Hartley provided an introduction to the film for contemporary, younger audiences:
A lot of us are raised to accept fucked-up values as normal. Sometimes a personal crisis makes you see things differently. Having yourself reduced to zero, you might find yourself capable of a generosity, selflessness, and bravery you didn’t know you were capable of.Tone Madison
I can look back at Hartley films now and see where my love of wry, deadpan, darkly metaphorical films began; it is probably why I love the films of Yorgos Lanthimos and Aki Kaurismäki so much and perhaps also the kind of humour that drives Taika Waititi’s work. Adrienne Shelly went on to write and direct a handful of great films, including Waitress (2007), before she was killed at age 40, something that still breaks my heart.
As a side note, when my eldest daughter was around 13, for her birthday I gave her a DVD for the best romcom from each decade since the 40s. It wasn’t easy narrowing it down and I’m not sure she appreciated the more challenging ones but my choices were:
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- Sabrina (1954)
- The Apartment (1960)
- Harold and Maude (1971)
- When Harry Met Sally (1989)
- Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
- Juno (2007)
So, what’s your favourite romantic comedy? Even if this isn’t normally a genre you watch, surely there is one that you secretly love.
Posted as part of the 30-Day Fillums Challenge, created by me. If you want to see what’s coming up, have a look at my post here and feel free to join in by commenting each day with your own choice.
Coming Next: Day 24: Your favourite film with a colour in the title