Film & TV

Five Films That Get Summer Romance Right

Kiana Stevens on Moonrise Kingdom

In Moonrise Kingdom, the Oscar-winning director Wes Anderson uses his unmistakably recognisable heartfelt and quirky style to capture the beautiful backdrop of Rhode Island. It is the amalgamation of these two that manage to capture a quaint and comfortingly nostalgic summer romance. Set in 1965 in the coastal town of New Penzance in New England, eccentric and unpopular teenagers Sam and Suzy harmlessly fall in love in a way most people remember from personal experience – in a way that is preciously ungraceful, free from sexualisation and without expectation. From two worlds unlikely to collide, both escape from the forthcoming pressures of adults to create their own existence in a magical cave they call Moonrise Kingdom. In close chase, their parents and guardians worriedly follow them around the town in a non-threatening attempt to reunite them with their dearest loves, unaware that over the process of the summer, they have quickly rediscovered this love in one another.

As the loved-up couple escape from their non-stereotypical childhoods in an adventure to reach Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson employs his charmingly beautiful lettering, fog of sepia tones and homemade aesthetic to conjure an entirely distinctive world for these two characters, in a way best represented in memories of childhood summer adventures.

Anderson expertly contrasts the depressive nature of the reality of life within the parents to that of the imaginative wonder of the world the children experience together. Their escape is a future of their own making together, a perfect summer romance. As Suzy and Sam dance on the beach of New Penzance in their baggy awkward underwear and share their first kiss and sexual encounter any audience member is left holding their breath in preparation for the kind of uncomfortable scene we have all experienced before. However, yet again, Anderson’s narrative remains a fantastic world of the depthless expectations of the child’s imagination and the characters are left with a positive mood and their innocence, reminding us of the refreshing purity of a perfect summer romance.
An additional factor that allows Anderson to capture a perfect summer romance is his ability to respect the teenage characters. Despite their obviously intriguing behaviour and passions such as Suzy bringing her cat on a run-away adventure, he never once mocks them. Each character can express themselves freely and without judgement, the narrative is entirely magical and allows the children’s love for one another to be real. This is a genuine feature that lets the wonderful Moonrise Kingdom to come to life for the audience and the characters, their summer romance is treated with the integrity and freedom that came with a first kiss in the August before secondary school, behind a tree trunk in your crush’s back garden, without the worried presumptions of parents that there is something more than a simple summer romance.

Jenna Dowling on Dirty Dancing

“Our summer romances are in full bloom” – this is the line that opens Dirty Dancing but believe me when I say you don’t need to be told it to believe it. Romance is in every line, dance number and song that creates this film that completely captures what a true summer romance should be.

Following the story of Baby, a sheltered daddy’s girl who is spending the summer away at a resort with her family, the film focuses on her falling for Johnny. He is a passionate dance teacher who introduces her to life outside of the bubble of privilege and safety she is so used to. It’s a story that targets not just first love, but also first lust and the real and common issues so many young people had and still have to face when growing up. But how does this film manage to successfully present a true summer romance? For one, it is not just the classic boy meets girl, in which the couple inevitably fall in love but then have to part ways – rather this film takes it a step further. It is not just the romance between Baby and Johnny that is significant but also the ‘romance’ between Baby and herself. She discovers not only her first love, but also herself and as cringey and cliched as that statement sounds, in this film it really is the truth. Her nickname ‘Baby’ is constantly repeated not only by other characters but also in the iconic soundtrack, and the meaning behind her nickname changes with the film. She goes from being daddy’s innocent ‘baby’ to Johnny’s assertive and self -assured ‘baby’ until she is finally re-introduced by her true name: Francis.

We can see throughout the film that it is ultimately her romance with Johnny that allows her to believe in herself and to stand up for herself. Their romance is so easy to watch – they genuinely bring out the best in each other and you can truly see them develop as characters throughout the film. Her optimism is what he needs whereas his realism helps Baby to realise that not everything in life is easy. But the main reason this film captures a summer romance so well is the message it leaves. Yes, the love is short and, no, we don’t know if Baby and Johnny have a future, but who really cares? The romance they shared that summer is important in shaping Baby’s adolescence – it teaches her to stand up for herself. After all, doesn’t Johnny teach her that “nobody puts baby in a corner”?

Indigo Jones on 500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer is a movie not only about a summer romance but Summer (Zooey Deschanel) herself, the main heroine who struggles with the relationships in her life. That is until she meets wannabe architect Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is stuck in a rut writing cards for a living. The film is based on all five hundred days of their relationship from beginning to end.

It rids the gender stereotyping of the main female that craves a romantic relationship similar to films like Bridget Jones’ Diary. Instead it emphasises the sensitive side of the male in the relationship which perhaps could be compared to films such as Submarine. The alternative genre also separates itself from the usual stereotypical romcom, focusing more on the underdogs rather than the traditional characters of a romantic comedy. Therefore, making the film more relatable in the process as the audience relates to Tom’s underdog persona. Although it does also exude clichés of indie films similar to Submarine with its overplaying of the Smiths, the different clothing and the unsympathetic narrator etc.

The narrator makes light of Tom’s struggle to win Summer over, making you feel sorry for him and root for the relationship end happily. Although, because of the audience’s hope for the relationship it brings to light the idea of ‘right person wrong time’, which truly encapsulates the romance and the passion they have for each other, even if they may not belong with each other in that moment in time. This unconventional love story shows how romantic the beginning of a Summer romance can be. From shopping trips in Ikea and singing karaoke, in comparison to the toxic ending of a relationships with tear-soaked tissues and empty ice cream tubs. This realistic romantic comedy highlights all the highs and lows of relationships rather than just the positive moments, making it more appealing as it encapsulates true romance in the process. Perhaps that is why it appeals to me personally over other movies containing summer romances. The realistic element is uplifting and creates the illusion that it could happen to anyone – which perhaps it could.

Jessica Roberts on Grease

Sometimes, summer romances really are nothing more than something sweet and fleeting – but ultimately destined to fade away as fast as your August tan. Sure, you might promise to keep in touch, but deep down, you know that’s it, and it’s probably for the best. The inevitable end of a summer romance is probably the only example of that rare thing, an amicable break-up.

But what happens when you’re suddenly unexpectedly reunited with your holiday fling? The realities of this have never been portrayed more accurately than in Grease. Both Danny and Sandy have their own fond memories of their summer nights, but it’s obvious that their brief relationship worked because it was carefree and no-strings-attached, just like a summer romance ought to be. They both treasure it because of the freedom they experienced – Sandy getting to stay out ‘til 10 o’clock!’, and Danny getting to escape the expectations and peer pressure of being one of the coolest guys in school. It’s no wonder that things weren’t quite so easy in the stiflingly gossipy environment of Rydell High.

The truth is that summer romances should be uncomplicated, and Danny and Sandy’s beach bliss was certainly a lot simpler than their attempts to navigate high-school dating. Whereas a summer fling (don’t mean a thing) can take place in a lovestruck bubble, in reality, nobody lives in a vacuum. As Sandy unfortunately found out, sometimes the handsome stranger you meet at the beach can be someone quite different in ‘real life’ (whether he wants to be or not). In real life, people come with baggage, in the form of obnoxious friends and overly-ambitious ex-girlfriends on the prowl. In real life, relationships can require work.

Should real relationships require as much work as Danny and Sandy’s ultimately did? Who can really say, although plenty of people have argued that Sandy’s complete transformation to ‘get the guy’ does not send a great feminist message – and let’s be honest, the tightness of those iconic leather trousers looks almost painful. That said, to ‘get the girl’, Danny took up sports, which in my opinion is equally painful. Maybe those two crazy kids were meant to end up together forever after all.

Nidhi Pattni on Mamma Mia!

Summer romances have a unique charm about them, they’re fun and light but also have memorable and relatable characters. These films are evergreen and no matter how many times you watch them, you feel just as alive and carefree as you did the first time you caught them in the theatre. And of course, who doesn’t love watching two unbelievably gorgeous people fall in love on screen (even if it does slowly chip away at your self-esteem). Mamma Mia! for me, is one of those films that exudes happiness and excitement and makes you feel like bursting into a musical number in the middle of a supermarket aisle.

I have seen Mamma Mia! over ten times and never seem to get tired of it – how could I? There’s so much to love, the story itself is so unique, and the characters keep you engaged throughout the entire movie – not to mention the toe tapping soundtrack that keeps you humming even hours later. In fact, even now as I am writing this, ‘Dancing Queen’ is on loop in my head and I am tempted to force my entire family to run behind me while I channel my inner Meryl Streep. However, there is more to this movie than just good acting and Colin Firth’s beautiful face. Mamma Mia! is like a ray of sunshine – as cheesy as that may sound! It allows us to put aside everything going on in our lives and just enjoy the moment, which is something we don’t do so often as we get caught up in our own realities.

It makes me feel like letting go of my inhibitions and just saying yes to every crazy opportunity, even if it means singing ‘I Will Always Love You’ in a karaoke bar rather terribly (Sorry Whitney Houston, I promise I won’t actually do that) – but you get the idea, it’s a movie that makes you feel like anything is possible and that you’re allowed to want a little magic in your life, whatever form that may come in. In fact, I believe that life should be like a musical; imagine being able to break up with someone using a song instead of having that long, dreadful talk (okay that probably won’t go down well, please don’t try that).

Mamma Mia! is a classic example of a movie one watches to escape their reality. It is not realistic at all, I mean if I randomly sent a mail to three handsome men to invite to my wedding, I’d probably receive a restraining order from each one of them. But that’s the point, we don’t go into a movie theatre to see a replica of our lives on screen, we go to get lost in another world. Mamma Mia! is one of those movies I watch simply as someone who loves cinema and its ability to unite everyone in that dark theatre. And every time I put it on, I lose myself for those few hours and believe I am on that island with Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, awkwardly dancing next to a coconut tree.