Ah Valentine’s Day, the polarizing holiday people love to love or love to hate based on relationship status and opinion on capitalism. Nevertheless, the day is a good excuse to watch a relatable film that tugs at the heartstrings.
However, I’m not talking about the shallow rom-coms churned out annually to make a quick buck. This column is all about expanding horizons so expect atypical picks and a few cooperative video games in the mix as well. Love is universal, no matter the genre or medium.
Whether you’re looking for something to do after that fancy dinner or want to spend a casual night in with something romantic in disguise, this list should please all manner of lovebirds and even platonic pals.
“Let the Right One In” — Yes, it is a Swedish horror movie about a vampire. BUT. The critically acclaimed 2008 flick also tells a sweet love story involving a 12-year-old and an immortal being that happens to look roughly the same age. By intelligently interweaving a coming-of-age plot about school bullies the story differentiates itself from the Ann Rice and Stephenie Meyer fare. It’s adorable, awesome, and the late Roger Ebert called it “the best modern vampire movie.”
“Portal 2” — What happens when you take one of the best puzzle games ever made and add a stand-alone two-player campaign? An equally amazing experience that requires thinking outside of the box and communication. Each player controls an adorable robot that is equipped with the series’ signature portal gun. Just aim at a surface to place an entrance or exit that carries people and objects through a series of obstacles. While it may lead to some heated words during times of frustration, there will be nothing better than the elated feeling after solving a challenging puzzle together.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” — Writer Charlie Kaufman, known for wonderfully surreal films such as “Being John Malkovich” and “Synecdoche, New York,” crafted a nonlinear science-fiction story with Jim Carrey in one of his best dramatic roles. The movie taps into a desire almost all daters have had and focuses on Kate Winslet’s Clementine erasing the memory of her ex Joel, played by Carrey. Understandably devastated, Joel uses the same technology to get over her. Naturally things aren’t that simple and the story captures both the good and bad of long-term relationships while forcing the audience to ponder what they would do if they could control their memories.
“Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” — Take the bomb-diffusing scene common in action flicks, add a complicated manual and you have this unique video game. Opting for non-traditional controls, one person wears a virtual reality headset showing a complex bomb with wires, switches, symbols and their partner has a physical binder filled with a solution among pages of troubleshooting procedures. The pair must accurately relay information to one another and trust their descriptions of what they see in order to succeed. Maybe picking another game that could lead to a breakup isn’t the best for Valentine’s Day, but I think increasing the heart rate through good-natured stress and excitement is healthy for a relationship.
“Harold and Maude” — Love doesn’t care for age differences in this dark comedy. Harold, an 18-year-old man with a penchant for all things related to death, and Maude, a 79-year-old woman that loves live, make an unlikely pair. Their existential adventure, however, is likely to warm the hearts of all who watch. Bonus: the soundtrack is composed and performed by the wonderful folk artist Cat Stevens. He wrote his hits “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” specifically for this charming tale.
“Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons” — Though not technically a multiplayer game, it’s possible to manage if the players snuggle up together and hold half of the lone controller. Each titular brother is controlled by one joystick and has their own set of moves. For instance, the older one can pull levers while the younger can squeeze into smaller spaces. As the title also implies, the story revolves around the duo helping their ailing father by finding a magical cure. You must work as a team to progress in this moving story about love and loss. The “pat-your-head-while-rubbing-your-stomach” feeling is lost in this modified version, but the game instead gains a sense of intimacy that wasn’t there before.