The art of a great on-screen romance can be so much more than the story or the script, it can be an intangible, indelible chemistry, falling on the shoulders of the leading du. It’s what make some of the classic big screen endeavours so memorable and wondrous, and it’s exactly this that makes Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War such a compelling slice of contemporary cinema, thanks to the affinity between leading duo Wiktor and Zula, portrayed remarkable by Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig, respectively. It harks back to the golden era of Hollywood and some of the finest ever romances on screen. Naturally, this has inspired us to choose our five favourites of all time.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy – What makes the on-screen relationship between Jesse and Celine so watchable and so authentic, in Richard Linklater’s ‘Before‘ trilogy, is the way Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have developed their characters across time. The three movies, which span 18 years, looks into the lives of two lovers in three different points in their life, from their very first meeting, all the way up to their marriage, and through these brief glimpses we learn so much about long-term relationships. We see every stage, the first meeting, and that initial moment of wonderment, to the true test; time. When love becomes a different beast altogether and couples become more than just lovers, but best friends, going from the wanting each other stage, right through to the needing period. The actors know the roles so well they have taken it upon themselves to share screenwriting credits too, as they imbue their own sensibilities and life experiences into the characters to create such a naturalistic set of events that depicts true love in a way seldom seen in cinema.
Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine – Often for great romances to work, we rely on the leading duo to have starred in a number of films together, to truly get that sense of comfortability, but in this instance, it’s just one film that stands out; Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Perhaps it is the sheer talent of the two performers, but what transpires is such a wonderful Hollywood romance, that has you wishing so fervently for their coming together, a sensation that never leaves, even if you’ve seen the film a hundred times. The now iconic sequence where Jack Lemmon is so distracted by the notion of love that he inadvertently drains spaghetti through a tennis racket is a moment that anyone who has fallen in love can relate to, a blissful moment that is emblematic of a man who completely and utterly besotted.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman – One of the most iconic couples ever on screen, and what’s more, Casablanca is the only film that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman ever starred in together. Perhaps it is the black and white aesthetic, the soft focus imagery of the female protagonist, but it’s a romance drenched in cinematic romanticism, and incredibly, it’s said the two were not even that fond of one another in real life. Which sounds bizarre at first thought, but then such is the complexity to their relationship and their fiery relationship on screen, perhaps, actually, it makes perfect sense.
Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan – Now this does go against the intro somewhat, for this romance is one that does rely, rather heavily, on the dialogue written for these two actors to share. As one of the greatest screenplays ever written, by the late Nora Ephron, it’s the way that Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan bounce off one another that is just so alluring. It’s an age-old tale, a will they won’t they of epic proportions that revolutionised the romantic comedy genre, and like so many people who have fallen for a friend, somebody they fear they may never be able to call their own, it provides something so vital; a sense of hope. I mean, if Harry and Sally can do it, then heck, so can we, right?
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton – Whether it be in Manhattan or in Annie Hall, partly what makes the relationship between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton so authentic is down to the fact the pair were together in real life. Though surprisingly, they had broken up prior to their most famous productions together. But they knew each other inside out, and that was plain for anybody to see. Woody Allen would always effectively play a version of himself on screen, and it’s said that Keaton was, in many ways, Annie Hall (her real name was Diane Hall – you do the maths). Such was the authenticity, and the way the screenplay was developed and aligned to the actors portraying the characters, it felt so wholly genuine, and like we were peering in to real life relationship, and yet Allen ensured in spite of this he never once compromised on the romanticism of cinema, blending the real with the fake to make for one of the finest ever on-screen coming togethers.