There are certain movies I’ve watched over the years that taught me a lot about love and marriage. I watched most of them before I fell in love for the first time and then a few more before I was married. Watching them again – 12 years of marriage later – and I’m reminded of exactly what they taught me.
Whenever a TV show or a movie upset me in any way during childhood my mum would run up to me and say, “It’s all make believe. It’s not real.”
Watch the Mamamia staff confess their most embarrassing dates below. Post continues after video.
Still, the stories come from somewhere. Someone has sat down and written the TV shows and movie scripts and many are based on real experiences. When something rings true it probably is, at least a little bit.
You may not have heard of some of these movies. Fate delivered them to me via midday movies when I was lying sloth-like on the couch trying to avoid uni work/house work/ real work.
Remember those days when we had time to watch the midday movies?
**Just a WARNING, this article contains LOTS of spoilers…
1. Forget Paris
I'm a sucker for a Billy Crystal movie and his work appears more than once on this list. In this 1995 romantic comedy Forget Paris, Billy Crystal plays basketball ref Mickey and Debra Winger plays Ellen. They met while he is living in the U.S. and she is living in Paris. The fall in love - despite the fact she is already married but separated - and it's all great at first but soon sours as reality kicks in. Add different goals and infertility into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.
What struck me about this movie was the fact that they had several, legitimate reasons to split. They wanted different things, they were having trouble having a baby, they weren't enjoying each other's company anymore and they were together but still felt totally alone.
LESSON: Keep on trying. Even when they did split and thought all was lost something kept them together. That something was love. I also loved their group of friends who all had problems of their own. Relationships are complicated and we can't help each other very much but we can be there for each other.
In 2001 the hauntingly beautiful movie Lantana was released to much acclaim. I watched it and felt incredibly angry.
Anthonly LaPaglia plays Leon, a police officer who is cheating on his beautiful wife Sonja, played by Kerry Armstrong. It's an incredible movie, complicated, complex, mesmorising, all the things but I'm just so sick of men who cheat because they are dissatisfied with their lives. They love their wives but something about their lives isn't right so they cheat.
Why, men, why?!?
When his wife Sonja discovers the affair and kicks him out I am so hurt for her but happy she was strong enough to do that. That's when her son - who is devastated by his parent's break up - steps in to try and reunite them and I melted, damn it. Then, I wanted them to get back together as well.
LESSON: When you have kids, you have to do everything you can not to just simply stay together, but to be happy and in love forever. You relationship is just as important as your children are. Value it, put time and energy into it and try and turn to each other during times of crisis instead of away from each other.
3. When Harry Met Sally
This list wouldn't be complete without the movie When Harry Met Sally. The 1989 comedy stars Billy Crystal as Harry and Meg Ryan as Sally, two college graduates who can't stand each other and end up falling in love.
The first time I watched this movie I was still in school and I wanted Sally's life. I too wanted to be a writer. I wanted to finish school and uni and get a job as a journalist. I wanted to be her. The romantic story line was great but not the part of the movie that really struck me.
LESSON: It showed me that you can meet someone who is so different to you, become friends, best friends and even fall in love. It was a lesson about the importance of friendship in a relationship and marriage. Don't just be boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife, be best friends as well. Never forget the friendship. Even when you think you hate each other.
4. Something To Talk About
The first time I became aware of this movie was during an Oprah episode. She was interviewing Julia Roberts who stars in the movie, playing wronged housewife Grace and Dennis Quaid who plays cheating husband Eddie. Yep, another movie where a dissatisfied husband decides that the best way to fix his marriage is to start a relationship with someone else.
It wasn't a box office success but I was still happy I'd watched it. It wasn't Grace's decision to ultimately stay with her husband that taught me something, but how they both realised they'd lost their way. Eddie, by turning to someone else for affection and Grace, by giving up her dreams to stay in the family business instead of pursuing her dream to become a vet. She has a daughter and I know that watching her mum pursue her own dreams is important for her daughter to see.
LESSON: I'm reminded that I have to continue to chase my dreams and put myself first because my own daughter is watching me and learning from me. If I put myself first in life she will put herself first in her own life and that is a lesson for me and for her.
5. Thank God He Met Lizzie
The movie Thank God He Met Lizzie starts off by introducing us to Guy played by Richard Roxburgh and Jenny played by Francis O'Connor, a couple who are madly in love with each other. Their relationship is dramatic and intense, full of all the ups and downs and ins and outs of any young couple who are in love and trying to figure out who they are at the same time.
Guy and Jenny are together for years and everyone expects them to get married but the magic fades and Guy mistakenly believes that this means they aren't meant to be together. He breaks up with a devastated Jenny and meets and quickly marries Lizzie played by Cate Blanchett, as though he wants to do it quickly before the magic fades for them as well. Watching him realise his mistake on his wedding night is gut-wrenching.
LESSON: Love fades in every relationship but that doesn't mean you don't love each other anymore. If you felt it once, it will return. Don't give up on a relationship just because the spark is gone. Do all that you can to find it again or you may end up with the wrong person.
6. While You Were Sleeping
Sandra Bullock had starred in one too many romantic comedies by the time she got around to starring in While You Were Sleeping in 1995. Sandra Bullock plays the lonely, unlucky in love Lucy who is living a miserable existence as a train fare token collector and Bill Pullman plays Jack, the brother of the man Lucy thinks she is in love with, even though she has never actually met him before.
Lucy caught sight of Peter at the train station and fell in love with him, even though she knew nothing about him. He falls on the train tracks and she rescues him, gets mistaken for his fiance and embraced by his family. She's so lonely she just can't tell them the truth or she will lose them all.
She and Jack also proceed to fall in love while Peter remains in a coma. By the time he regains consciousness the situation is complicated to say the least. She ends up fessing up and she and Jack end up together.
LESSON: People aren't always as great as they seem. Even though they look like your dream guy, they may not be. Get to know people before you give your heart to them, otherwise you might accidentally miss out on the love of your life.
How many movies are there about cheating I ask you. At least this time it is the bored, dissatisfied housewife who does the cheating instead of the husband. Still, how could she? Seriously, get a hobby people. Having an affair won't help anything in the long run. Take up knitting, eat some chocolate, change your hair colour, anything. Anyway, that's not the lesson I learned from this movie.
Unfaithful was released in 2002 and stars Diane Lane as Connie, Richard Gere as her husband Edward and Olivier Martinez as her lover Paul who she runs into during a trip to the city to buy party supplies for her son's birthday. They begin a torrid affair, even though Connie does love her husband. Watching Edward's devastation as he realises his wife's betrayal is heartbreaking. What happens next is terrible. The confrontation. Edward confronts Paul and accidentally kills him. Connie has already ended the affair but finds out later what her husband has done. They entire perfect lives are destroyed. The movie ends with them considering fleeing to Mexico.
LESSON: Don't cheat, especially if you still love your partner. If you don't love your partner, break up with them properly or your new love interest may be accidentally killed. No, seriously, this movie serves as another reminder that anyone who is even a little dissatisfied with their lives and relationships should do all they can to find a way to be happier before they get themselves into trouble they'll live to regret.
8. The Story Of Us
The Story of Us is a 1999 romantic comedy that explores the difficulties of a long-time married couple played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. It should have been another brilliant Rob Reiner movie who acted, wrote and directed many amazing movies including Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Misery and A Few Good Men) but it fails to hit the mark.
Still, I love it and watch it at least once a year.
Ben and Katie meet, fall in love, get married and have two kids. They are living perfect lives. Except neither likes who they have become. Ben is irresponsible, all about fun and accidentally unsupportive of his wife's efforts to keep them all organised and functional. Katie is too rigid and inflexible and has forgotten how to be spontaneous and have fun. They both resent each other. Even though they love each other, they don't like who they are with each other.
LESSON: They have a trial separation but can't quite end it forever. The separation is the best thing they could ever have done because they have time and space to see each other more clearly, as well as themselves, and come back together on more equal footing. Sometimes stepping back from a relationship is the best thing you can do so you have to to assess and figure out how you want the rest of your relationship to be.
9. Fatal Attraction
I just had to include Fatal Attraction. I watched it when I was quite young, long after it had been released in 1987 because I was only 11 then and way too young to watch it. I caught it one afternoon on TV many years later and watched it as a highly inappropriate (too many sex scenes) horror movie. I finally understood the term "bunny boiler" and felt lucky that I'd never be as insane as the incredibly insane Alex, played by Glenn Close.
Anne Archer plays wronged wife Beth and Michael Douglas plays cheating, low-life, scumbag husband Dan. After a chance meeting with Alex he begins a torrid affair. To him it's just about sex but to her it's about love. Beth finds out after the bunny boiling incident and continues to stand by him, even after Alex abducts their daughter Ellen and tries to kill her in a car accident. Talk about forgiving.
LESSON: When you are in a long term relationship I think it is helpful to make clear the consequences of actions such as cheating. Talk about the things you could never get over. Keep them top of mind. There are somethings we can forgive in relationships and then there are deal-breakers. I think it's healthy to discuss them, particularly when you've been married for a while, because it's always helpful to consider the worst case scenario to avoid doing something you'll regret.
10. Chasing Amy
Oh my gosh isn't Chasing Amy the best movie ever. Seriously, this movie changed my life. It was so compelling and brilliant and funny and so incredibly sad at the end. Released in 1997, this is one of the best movies ever made by Kevin Smith. Starring Ben Affleck as Holden and Joey Lauren Adams as Amy, the movie is about unrequited love that is then requited, and is then lost.
Holden is madly in love with Amy but she is a lesbian so they can only ever be friends, until she falls in love with him too. Their relationship is passionate, torrid and seemingly perfect. Except Holden can't forget her past and all the things she has done. You have to wonder if their relationship is just too perfect for him and he destroys it with unreasonable jealously.
The breakup scene is unforgettable, the best in cinematic history. They are completely destroyed by it. She begs him not to break up with her, tells him she did lots of crazy things in the past but that he was the "missing piece of the puzzle". Turn back, turn back Holden...but he doesn't. By the time he realises what he has lost it is too late and when he finds her again, Amy has moved on.
LESSON: When you find that one true love, don't let anything or anyone stand in it's way. The past doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is every day after you met and got together. If you let it go, you may never get it back.
Intersection is one of those movies that many people missed because it didn't do very well. It's such a shame because it is an incredible movie, one of the best by Richard Gere who plays husband Vincent, Sharon Stone who plays wife Sally and Lolita Davidovich who plays new love Olivia.
A man close to me - who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons - gave me his take on the movie. I've never forgotten it. It taught me that people see movies so differently, particularly men and women. This man described the movie like this...The husband leaves the wife because she doesn't give him enough sex and then he meets the new girl and she has sex with him all the time...Head-slap.
It's actually about a husband and wife who are very in love and building a successful life together however are very different people. He is creative and ambitious and she is ambitious as well, but to a point where she values their image over everything else. He wants love, passion, authenticity and she drifts away from him to a place where their personal life is lost to the business they run together. He begins an affair and leaves his wife but finds himself torn. In the end we are privy to the decision he has made, however before he can find true happiness tragedy strikes.
LESSON: Sometimes love isn't enough. You can love two people but you need to choose the person who makes you happy now, today, forever. You'll know who that person is through reflection, as Vincent does by seeing a child who looks just like Olivia and instantly realising they are destined to be together.
12. American Beauty
Here's another brilliant movie that shows exactly what can happen when you lose touch with who you really are and what you really want. The 1999 movie American Beauty is a masterpiece that speaks so well about modern life, modern marriage and how the superficial can get in the way of living in an authentic way.
Kevin Spacey plays Lester who is married to Carolyn, played by Annette Benning. They love each other but have forgotten that. They want to be together but have forgotten that. They want to be happy but have forgotten how. Their daughter Jane has no idea how to be happy because it's so clear to her that her parents are not. She ends up finding happiness through her first love however her parents almost, but don't quite get there.
LESSON: Never change who you are because you are trying to be the person you think your significant other wants you to be. They fell in love with who you were, not who you became by trying to conform to an ideal you had no part in designing. So be who you were, who you are and they can love you or leave you. No marriage is strong enough to survive falseness and superficiality.