It’s not wildly cool to be unabashedly in love with love in 2014. As adults, our love stories have evolved to become these wieldy, introspective, self-deprecating things – multi-dimensional and piquantly marinaded in irony and angst. For all their myriad charms, each new romance that trips across the silver screen seems shadowed –  Pan-like – by the ingenious back stories stitched to its toes. Yet two Valentine’s Day releases (something old and something brand new) will allow us to fall foolishly in love with love again : Spike Jonze’s beguiling film Her and Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle.

Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) and Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) have both been sucker-punched by sadness – quite blindsided by their respective bereavement and marital breakdown – they are men set adrift inside their own lives. And despite the contrast of wildly different wardrobes – from Phoenix’s hipster chic to Hank’s irrefutably ’90s smart casuals – their careworn faces wear identical expressions of bewilderment. Throughout Her we are cast as the queerest of voyeurs, observing Theodore’s toe-curlingly intimate encounters with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) without ever seeing her face, while Sleepless in Seattle allows us to hear Sam’s seduction of Annie (Meg Ryan) before he even knows she exists. We fall in love as each of the characters do, reluctantly but utterly.

Annie and Samantha’s commonality is of a gratifyingly feminist kind. Defying lady-love-interest convention, their yearning for fulfilling inner lives dynamically drives the narrative forward. Each wooed by words spoken to another – Samantha by the whimsy of Theodore’s work letters and Annie by Sam’s raw adoration of his wife – they determine to be with these men, then pursue, beguile and win their quarries. The goal being a change of life, another way of being, above any traditional happily ever after. The desires and needs of their romantic interests seem almost secondary in the face of such steely determination. Meg Ryan as feminist icon? Stranger things have happened.

18 months after the death of his beloved wife, Sam Baldwin’s son Jonah phones a late night talk station to persuade a ‘radio doctor’ to help his dad. As a guileless Sam spills his sorrow across the airwaves, journalist Annie (Meg Ryan), driving through the night to share Christmas with the family of her new fiancé, falls helplessly for the heartbroken caller. She and the rest of America, as it transpires. Defying her own pragmatic nature and buoyed by compulsive rewatches of An Affair to Remember, she writes a letter proposing to meet the lonely stranger at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, then regrets the impulse immediately.

The evolution of Samantha’s feelings for Theodore is somewhat out of character too. Her structured existence thrives on order, on solutions and snappy answers. But his sweet helplessness provokes in her a need to nurture and comfort him and opens the door for her to consider that she has a boundless capacity for emotion which has never been explored. Both Her and Sleepless in Seattle offer us a chance to curl up and let love – and hope – wash away our doubts and cynicism for one single night. Each manages its unlikely meeting of hearts with grace and wit, allowing a supporting cast to voice the disappointments of the world while our protagonists take a leap of faith.

Though happy endings are not guaranteed, the fairytale quality of this delightful duo will warm even the coolest cockles before the lights come up. With exquisitely orchestrated exchanges between the prospective lovers and a fine ear for the value of silence, Sleepless in Seattle and Her make a perfect odd couple to celebrate with. There is a tang of sour stirred into the sweet for those whose hearts have taken a battering of late and plenty to affirm the appeal of a single life for those who choose to go it alone this February 14th. Sleepless in Seattle is at Cineworld Cinemas for one day only while Her opens nationwide. Take someone you love and enjoy the magic. Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all xxx

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Emily Breen
Emily Breen began writing for HeyUGuys in 2009. She favours pretzels over popcorn and rarely watches trailers as she is working hard to overcome a compulsion to ‘solve’ plots. Her trusty top five films are: Betty Blue, The Red Shoes, The Princess Bride, The Age of Innocence and The Philadelphia Story. She is troubled by people who think Tom Hanks was in The Philadelphia Story and by other human beings existing when she is at the cinema.