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A (mostly) cheese-free Watchlist for the Lactose-intolerant Romantic

Feb 15, 2023 12:37:11 PM Written by Diogo Brüggemann 5 min read

it’s all about the Indies!

It’s Valentine's Day, and one tradition never gets old: watching a romantic film with your sweetheart. 

We’d usually encourage you to go out to the cinema, get some popcorn, and watch the latest prize nominee on the big screen, but perhaps the more romantic option is to stay home, cook or order in some dinner, and stream a classic love story snuggled together on your sofa.

So, for the couch-potato lovebirds among you, we’ve put together a list of wonderful independent romantic movies not currently in cinemas. And because we know that a modern, discerning audience such as yourselves needs 

a more updated perspective on love, we went a step further: we took the time to select romantic films which manage to avoid those tired, cheesy tropes which make some of us cringe as February 14th approaches.

So without further ado, here it is:


Carol (2015)

The ultimate love story, Carol has been described as one of the most romantic films of recent times. Carefully directed by Todd Haynes and beautifully written by Phyllis Nagy, the story is an adaptation of the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith - republished as Carol in 1990. It stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as a couple discovering their attraction for each other during difficult times, as they battle personal dilemmas and a society which rejects same-sex relationships. 

With six Oscar nominations and nine BAFTA Award nominations, Carol has been lauded as one of the best LGBTQ films of all time and it sure is a great option for all kinds of romantics.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video


Palm Springs (2020)

If your partner flatly refuses to watch a romantic film, this is the one to lure them into watching one!

Mixing in science fiction and adventure, Palm Springs uses the most unexpected plot devices to create what, at first sight, appears to be a typical rom-com, but quickly defies our expectations. 

Directed by Max Barbakow in his directorial feature debut, and with a screenplay by Andy Siara, this one-of-a-kind movie brings the hilarious Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as an about-to-be couple who get stuck in a very complex time situation. Please don’t be put off by this jumbled description! This film is better watched than described.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video


Waitress (2007)

The sweetest romantic film ever made, Waitress is not as well known as it should be. Directed by the talented Adrienne Shelly (who also acts in a supporting role in the movie) and starring the incredible Keri Russell, this unique romantic comedy-drama is a feminist story of self-discovery and an unusual first love. 

At first glance, this one might seem cheesy, but on a second look, Waitress is a very tasteful morsel - pun intended! The best thing about this movie is probably its witty, sharp, and funny dialogue: some lines hit really hard and make us reflect upon our life’s choices and objectives. 

Where to watch: for rent on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes and GooglePlay.


Weekend (2011)

Praised as one of the most realistic films about gay relationships, Weekend is a British film written and directed by Andrew Haigh. It tells the story of two men who meet and have a brief sexual relationship the weekend before one of them plans to leave the country for good. The down-to-earth dramatic tone of this film, together with the stellar job done by protagonists Tom Cullen and Chris New, make this love story feel even more genuine and honest. Weekend might make you cry, but it will also make you value all kinds of relationships, even those whose futures are very uncertain.

Where to watch: Mubi and BFI Player


Enough Said (2013)

Relationships are complicated, and they don’t seem to get any easier as we grow older. Enough Said is an adorable rom-com that focuses on a middle-aged couple played by the talented Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, the film also deals with complex themes and dilemmas, such as what would you do if you found out that your new boyfriend is the ex-husband of a very good friend of yours? 

A romantic movie for grown-ups, Enough Said brings together an amazing cast in a story full of depth and humanity.

Where to watch: for rent on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, GooglePlay, Rakuten TV and Chili.


The Way He Looks (2014)

This Brazilian gem is a coming-of-age film that takes us back to our first love. Tender and very charming, The Way He Looks tells the story of Leonardo, a blind high school student trying to become more independent from his overprotective family while also learning that he is falling in love with a classmate, Gabriel. 

Written and directed by Daniel Ribeiro, the film approaches both disability and homosexuality in a very respectful and thoughtful way. With plenty of endearing supporting characters, The Way He Looks proves that teenage love stories can still be original and touching.

Where to watch: for rent on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, GooglePlay, Chili and BFI Player.


Bonus - The before... Trilogy

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight - the three acclaimed romantic movies written & directed by the brilliant Richard Linklater - are not exactly what we would call independent films, due to the support of large production and distribution companies. But their small budget and minimalism make the trilogy feel like a heartwarming indie project. 

The films, released nine years apart from each other, focus on the story of Céline and Jesse, played by the gifted actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, as they meet at three different times of their lives. The utmost life-long love story, the trilogy heavily focuses on authentic dialogue and dives deep into the characters’ personalities so that we, the audience, may understand how their deep love forms, changes, and regains shape over the years.

Where to watch: for rent on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, GooglePlay, Chili and Sky Store.

Diogo Brüggemann

Diogo Brüggemann is a Brazilian film enthusiast with a Master's Degree in Cinema and Literature. He has written about films and their relationship with gender and sexuality, as well as the connections between cinema and foreign affairs. He maintains a website in Portuguese focused on film critique.

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