Platonic love in cinema: A Valentine's Day special

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By Milan Perera, Second Year, English Literature

Yes, the dreaded February 14th is fast approaching. How many of us are walking home alone on that day feeling like, to quote the famous words of Bernie Taupin, “a cloud across the sun?” Why feel sad and lonely when we have strong platonic relationships based on intimacy and friendship without all the drama of infatuation or having to wonder where a relationship is going? It’s as good as a romantic relationship. Well, almost.

In a celebration of all things friendship in a season obsessed with romance, here is my quick rundown of just a handful of films that celebrate the power of platonic love.

The Imitation Game (2014)

Courtesy of IMDB

In this critically acclaimed movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly, the spotlight is firmly fixed on the unsung heroes at Bletchley Park who decrypted German intelligence codes, who the wartime PM Winston Churchill hailed for “shortening the war.” But beyond the high-brow world of code breaking, there is a poignant human drama in which Alan Turning (Cumberbatch) suffers at the hands of authorities due to his sexuality. His colleague Joan Clarke (Knightly) cares deeply for Alan and her heart goes out to him when enduring a series of humiliations after serving his country and the king, presenting a story of loving support that stands the test of time.

A Patch of Blue (1965)

Courtesy of IMDB

This gem of a movie is set against the Civil Right Movement which was gaining fresh momentum as result of the ever-deepening racial divisions in America. Starring the late doyen of a thespian, Sidney Poitier. The story revolves around the friendship of a well-educated, softly spoken young black man, Gordon (played by Poitier) and an illiterate, blind white woman, Selina (Elizabeth Hartman.) Although technicolour was available at the time, Director Guy Green decided to shoot it in black and white, positioning the piece as an extended metaphor for ‘love knows no colour.’ As Gordon works to help Selina get her life in order she asks him to marry her, but Gordon calmly reassures her that “there are many types of love” outside of the romantic kind. An overall wholesome cinematic achievement with multiple Academy Awards nominations.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Courtesy of IMDB

Winner of multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress, Million Dollar Baby is a story of an amateur female boxer Margaret ‘Maggie’ Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) as she navigates through life. Ridiculed by her own family, Maggie finds a purpose and fulfilment in boxing. She trains on her own at the rundown gym, Hit Pit, operated by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood). Despite coming across as a cantankerous old man, Maggie pesters him to teach her to box which is emphatically declined as he ‘doesn’t train girls.’ One day against his better judgement, Frankie takes up the challenge of training her. Surrounded with pitfalls and backstabbing in professional boxing, Maggie finds Frank as the only person she trusts. This bittersweet movie is a tour de force of emotions.

Lost In Translation (2003)

Courtesy of IMDB

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola with nuance and tenderness, Lost In Translation tells the tale of a failing middle-aged actor, Bob (Bill Murray) bumps into a recently graduated young woman, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Tokyo bar. Bob is shooting a whisky commercial, while Charlotte is accompanied by her celebrity photographer husband to the Far East. They bond over their frustrations, unfulfilled ambitions and general outlook on life. The rapport is immediate and they find a kindred spirit in one another, forming an intergenerational bond that is truly unique.

Love comes in many shapes and sizes and cinema has long spent time investing in such stories. So for something a little different from the typical romances, check out these films for a more well rounded Valentine’s.

Featured Image: IMDB


What films do you feel best represent platonic love?

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