By Nicole Quy, Co-Editor in Chief of The Croft
It goes without saying that most mainstream romance films and TV shows tend to skew heterosexual. Narratives that do offer a non-heteronormative perspective tend also to fall into tropes of prejudiced stereotyping or, though with the best intentions, focus on the hardships and plights that can sometimes accompany LGBTQ+ relationships, which, whilst important and equally emotional, don’t always harbour that celebratory, feel-good feeling that you might be after when choosing something to watch on Valentine’s Day.
It is even less surprising that the most frequented rom-coms adorning Valentine’s Day recommendation lists centre around cisgender heterosexual, predominantly white relationships. Don’t get me wrong, About Time (2013) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) deserve their place on the tier list of Valentine’s classics, but everyone of all genders and sexualities deserves to see themselves represented in romantic films just as often as straight people.
With the month of February marking LGBTQ+ History Month, the list below compiles some of the best romantic films that focus on the beauty, compassion and reality of queer love.
This poignant drama explores the passionate relationship that develops between Carol (Cate Blanchett), a stylish matriarch in a crumbling marriage, and Therese (Rooney Mara), a young shopgirl on the verge of her sexual awakening.
It's a beautiful, devastating film that stays with you long after you've finished watching it. Poignant through and through, it showcases the bittersweet reality of closeted gay women trying to survive and make their way through the world in a society where they have to hide their true selves.
The constriction of their situation is always present in the way they must conceal their feelings in public. Only through covert glances, lingering looks, and slight touches do they communicate.
And it is this masterful direction by Todd Haynes, placing more emphasis on long stares across the room, as opposed to monumental plot details, which characterise the sensual, longing passion that solidifies Carol as a love story worth visiting time after time.
A League Of Their Own (2022-)
If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know why—practically every moment will make you realise you’re queer. And I loved every second of it.
It’s frankly embarrassing how few complex portraits of lesbians there are on television, but A League of Their Own is chock full of amazing, rich, fully drawn lesbians.
While the show reflects on the difficulties that queer women face (it’s set in the ’40s, so that’s only natural), it’s also an unapologetic celebration of lesbian joy, which is still way too hard to come by.
Featuring historical accuracy, great jokes, and engaging drama, the show is a vital chronicle of queer existence.
The Sex Lives of College Girls (2021-)
Perhaps a little less romance-centred, but nevertheless as equally comforting and tantalising, Mindy Kialing and Justin Noble’s The Sex Lives of College Girls is arguably one of TV’s most enjoyable shows, delivering great humour with a dose of character growth and relentless raunchiness.
Though not exclusively LGBQT+ based, the show’s most intriguing character is Leighton (Reneé Rapp): uber-rich, preppy, and unapologetically judgemental. Leighton is also a lesbian, and she finally gets the confidence to be out and proud in the show’s second season.
Part of that pride comes with Leighton having an explicit vast amount of sex with an array of various women, showcased visually in an exhilarating montage of Leighton bringing different ladies back to her dorm room.
There’s a lot more to Leighton’s character than just having sex, but it's so rare to see queer women having lots of sex with lots of people and not be shamed for it.
Indeed, The Sex Lives of College Girls wisely celebrates Leighton doing exactly what she wants with her own body, and, whilst maybe not inherently romantic or heartfelt as some of the other watches on this list, it’s just as much worthy on a day celebrating love and attraction in all its forms.
Heartstopper took the world by storm this year. The super-sweet show follows the budding romance between classmates Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor). Not only is it a lovely watch, but the series also hammers home the fear that comes with realising you’re different and how terrifying it can be to actually come out.
In the most wonderful (and most heart-stopping) scene, Nick finally summons the courage to come out to his mother, played by none other than British treasure Olivia Colman. After he bares his feelings with his mom, she couldn’t be more pleased, immediately wrapping up Nick in a warm hug.
She says the words every queer kid wants to hear: “Thank you for telling me. I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you couldn’t tell me that.”
The scene finishes with Nick’s mom reminding him that she loves him, hugging him one more time to tie a bow on this heart-warming, highly emotional moment.
Under My Skin (2020)
Celebrated by Variety as a “big win for non-binary representation in entertainment,” the film presents a compelling and beautifully shot love story wrapped in a nuanced depiction of young artists’ journey toward their true selves.
The alternation of the actor for the protagonist is certainly an interesting choice, but perhaps epitomises the different stages of transition or, rather, the mental breakthroughs in transition.
Duck Butter (2018)
This popular 2018 flick follows two women who embark on a 24-hour experiment to see if they can have a totally honest relationship.
It’s packed with comedy, some steamy moments, and a whole lot of heart. If you fancy something light-hearted and a little less serious than the romance films that’ll clear you out of tissues, this is for you.
Featured Image: Potrait of a Lady On Fire (2019) / Courtesy of IMDB.
Have you seen any of these LGBTQ+ romance films?