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Love Me or Leave Me Alone as a Theme on the Screen

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Proof of love is on our radar as Valentine's Day nears. Hope, grief, courage and reconciliation, how has the cinematic mirror portrayed relationships that survive while others fizzle before death-do-us part?

What follows is a minute selection whittled from an infinite one. We hope our choices render certain principles of intimacy viewed through the lens of memorable, grand relationships in film and television. Here are a few we feel are worth highlighting for their instructional and sentimental value.

Casablanca (1942)

Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid are a married couple seeking necessary travel documents in Morocco, fleeing the fog of World War II Germany en route to America. The connection to their papers is a hopping nightclub. Turns out, it's owned by Bergman's ex-lover Humphrey Bogart who was madly in love with her when she up and left him.

Bogart initially holds a grudge and refuses to help them. Bergman privately explains that she only left him when informed that her husband had not died in the war as she was lead to believe. Bogart and Bergman drop their guard as they try to sort things out and once again proclaim love for one another.

Bogart leads Bergman to believe she can stay behind with him. At the last minute, no matter how desperately he wants her to stay; he insists that she go as she would be in danger if she stayed.

Here's an example of a relationship with interfering variables. While this relationship is not one that survives in the conventional sense, it reflects how sometimes loving someone means letting them go.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

This comedy has a far-fetched plot line which depicts the endurance of a reorganized family within a marriage that doesn't endure. Robin Williams plays husband to Sally Fields with two children together. Unable to work out their differences and seeing that they have turned from each other in their evolution as individuals, Fields tires of Williams' infantile behaviors and files for divorce.

Instead of accepting a court order which requires that he practically abandon their children, Williams disguises himself as a female nanny and gets hired so that he can spend more time them. Eventually a deal which restores equilibrium is struck.

While not all marriages last, parenting is forever and skills can develop gradually. This movie represents how an adult relationship can be navigated healthily for the children's sake.

The Notebook (2004)

This tear-jerker opens with an elderly man, James Garner, reading to an older woman, Gena Rowlands, in a nursing home. Her memory is failing due to Alzheimer's disease. To pass the time as pleasantly as possible, he reads her a love story between two characters played by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

Young and in love they are driven from one another when McAdam's wealthy family moves her away to college. Soon after, she becomes engaged. One day she sees an article in the newspaper with Gosling in his beautifully restored home. Impulsively goes to see him and they re-kindle their passionate love.

Their differences in social class and family interference causes Macadam's confusion about whom to pick. McAdams realizes it's always been Gosling whom she's in love with. Gosling tells McAdams that their love is worth fighting for. After recounting this story in its entirety to Rowlands she realizes that the love story is about them.

In the end, their story reflects that differences in social strata, parental pressure, or illness need not be obstacles that tear apart true love.


Castle (2009 - present)

These television characters are played by Nathan Fillion, a mystery writer who follows around Stana Katic, a detective, on her cases in order to gain insights for his writing. Their union shifts from professional with a pinch of chemistry, to friendship fed by stimulating each other's intellects that eventually morphs into romance.

There is plenty of frisson as they challenge each other interpersonally. Katic is private, distrusting and doesn't easily allow others to get to know her. Fillion jokes his way through life and takes things more superficially, though he yearns to be genuine and strip away his artificiality. What breeds between them is the same endgame. Neither allows the other to know them until a strong bond of trust develops.

Together they chart new emotional territory by allowing their vulnerability to unfold into a caring, bonding, and psychologically intimate relationship first. It helps that Katic's character has attended therapy to explore her issues. The characters now are engaged to be married and we look forward to seeing how they continue to portray what a healthy, vibrant relationship can look like.

We began this post with the acknowledgment that many contenders were omitted. For instance, this year's Oscar nominated American Hustle (2013) contains at its heart a twisted and tender love story. Amy Adams grows from a hopeful and conniving mistress of Christian Slater in his marriage to Jennifer Lawrence into an appropriate step-mother which has never before been depicted.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) illustrates the co-dependent debilitating toll alcoholism takes on an aging couple. A more hopeful When Harry Met Sally (1989) finds platonic friends from different cultural marinades tempting fate by consciously affirming their growing mutual passion. Touching As Good As It Gets (1997) unites a struggling single mother and curmudgeon bachelor who accommodate the other's particular singularities and hence grow stronger in love.

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