En español | It's summertime and the loving is easy. OK, make that occasionally easy. More often, romance is met with challenges major, minor and sometimes self-inflicted. Need proof? Here are 10 of the finest romances — some cheery, some teary, some both — streaming on Netflix currently.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Jane Hawking's memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, offered an intimate vantage to gaze upon the amazing story of the famed astrophysicist and the tenacious, creative woman who kept him going once he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In embodying the couple's highs (there are many) and lows, Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne (who won the Oscar for his performance) suggest that perseverance and compassion are at the core of a love that endured much but also changed.
Watch it on Netflix: The Theory of Everything
About Time (2013)
Upon his 21st birthday, Tim (a pitch-perfect Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his dad (Bill Nighy with all his twitchy, inviting charm) that the family's menfolk can time travel — in, it turns out, a delightfully modest way. They can't futz with historic events but can hop back to recent moments in their own lives. This conceit gives Tim and this snappily written film plenty of room to tease the small stuff: a muffed first pickup line or a bumbly go at a bra clasp. Rachel McAdams is radiant as Mary, the woman Tim falls for. That he doesn't overuse this “gift” underscores how so much of life — his and ours — can be special as is.
Watch it on Netflix: About Time
Love Jones (1997)
A writer and a photographer meet in this romantic foray that has aged nicely since its premiere in the late ‘90s. Nia Long plays Nina, the budding photog whose fiancé had split at the movie's start. Lorenz Tate of the sweet smile and low-key bravado dedicates a spoken-word piece to Nina, just minutes after meeting her at a hipster club in Chicago. It doesn't work. But the stars and their characters have a savvy chemistry that won't be denied — challenged, sure, but not denied.
Watch it on Netflix: Love Jones
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Sometimes you seek the romance of the road to find — or remake — yourself. The title character in this dramedy does just that, when she leaves her Columbus, Ohio, home for points west: Butte, Montana, although Juanita initially pronounces it “Butt” when buying a bus ticket. It's a low-hanging joke, but Alfre Woodard makes the worn here work. Blair Underwood plays her fantasy man. Adam Beach portrays the First Nations guy — owner of a French restaurant — who may alter her reality.
Watch it on Netflix: Juanita
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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
In real estate the mantra is “location, location, location.” In romantic films — funny or teary — it's chemistry, chemistry, chemistry. What transpires on screen between Bradley Cooper's and Jennifer Lawrence's characters bumped each actor's career up a notch. David O. Russell directs with an appreciation for comedy, pathos and the hurdles of mental illness as Pat (a divorced man with bipolar disorder) and Tiffany (a widow with emotional challenges of her own) partner for a dance contest.
Watch it on Netflix: Silver Linings Playbook
In 1958, a few months after Mildred Jeter (a Black woman) and Richard Loving (a white man) got hitched, they were arrested in the middle of the night, jailed, tried and exiled from their home state of Virginia. Their crime? They had broken the state's anti-miscegenation law. Their triumph? In 1967 they and their ACLU lawyers took their case to the Supreme Court. Loving v. Virginia ended laws that prohibited marriage between the races. Hushed performances by Joel Edgerton and especially Ruth Negga as the couple give profound ache and power — and sometimes joy — to this story of love during the time of segregation.
Watch it on Netflix: Loving
Someone Great (2019)
Gina Rodriguez — with the able assistance of Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise playing her best friends — makes this New York City rom-com a pleasure. This movie is smart about romantic love, but genius on the romance called friendship. When music journalist Jenny (Rodriguez) decides to move to San Fran for work, the opportunity precipitates the end of her nine-year relationship with Nate (a lovely LaKeith Stanfield). Jenny's version of self-care for heartbreak consists of lots of booze, some recreational drugs and going on a final hurrah with her friends to a pop-up concert. Someone Great reminds those of us much further along in the life-work-love-balance biz how fun and hard, fun and hard, fun and … it was to be starting out on the capital-letter stuff: Love and Career.
Watch it on Netflix: Someone Great
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Always Be My Maybe (2019)
When chef Sasha Tran makes her way through the bustling kitchen of her L.A. restaurant, she stops at a tray of dumplings and complains about the “wrinkles.” Get rid of them. Thankfully, Ali Wong and Randall Park, stars and writers of this winning romantic dramedy, embraced their character's wrinkles. Marcus and Sasha had been friends since elementary school when an unexpected hookup one night as teens changed everything. Sixteen years later, Marcus works with his dad (a delightful James Saito) and fronts a struggling band. Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a high-concept restaurant. What could possibly go right? A lot in this charmer. Keanu Reeves makes a hilarious appearance as a version of, er, Keanu Reeves.
Watch it on Netflix: Always Be My Maybe
A young man bent on impressing one not-quite-worthy woman instead lands a star. Literally. Claire Danes portrays Yvaine, a fallen star, in this fleet, fantastical, funny yarn about realms colliding. Charlie Cox plays Tristan, the lad. The supporting cast — Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Mark Strong among them — could have been charged with grand theft upstaging were Cox and Danes not so pitch perfect as the star-nudged beloveds.
Watch it on Netflix: Stardust
Our Souls at Night (2017)
Based on Coloradan Kent Haruf's final novel, this soft-glow of a drama finds icons Robert Redford and Jane Fonda opposite each other for the first time since 1979. They still got it. After decades as neighbors barely known to each other, widow Addie suggests to widower Louis that they sleep together for the night (platonically) to stave off the loneliness. It's a hook as seemingly daffy as any rom-com can get, but the movie shimmers with nuance, warmth and connection thanks to the pros.
Watch it on Netflix: Our Souls at Night
Lisa Kennedy, a regular AARP film critic, is a former Village Voice editor (1986-96) and Denver Post film critic (2003-15) who writes on popular culture, race and gender for Variety, The New York Times, Essence, American Theatre, the Denver Post, and others.