In love stories of old, a girl would meet a boy. After one fleeting glance, an exchange of a few choice words or an accidental brush of the hand while picking up dropped books, they would know: they were destined to be together. And within almost no time at all, the hapless pair would be so smitten, they would forsake decades-old friendships, careers and even their families for the sake of their relationship.
In real life, this kind of behaviour would elicit serious concern. But in Hollywood films and romantic novels, these dynamics were held aloft as aspirational for generations. And these stories could be harmful. They taught men that they should never give up in their pursuit of ‘the one’, even if ‘the one’ didn’t seem all that into it. They told women that they couldn’t be truly happy without a romantic relationship. And they convinced everyone that wonderful love affairs only happened to people who looked a certain way.
Thankfully, the publishing and entertainment industries have woken up and realised that love exists in a multitude of forms – each worthy of its own spotlight. Stories of LGBTQ love, black and brown love, lost love and more are now ours for the taking, and we couldn’t be happier.
So, without further ado, here are five of the best modern love stories out there right now.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is like a Richard Curtis film populated by actual humans – transplanting all the delight of a thinking rom-com into the 21st century. London’s ridiculous rents force Tiffy (crafts book editor, works 9-5) and Leon (a hospice nurse on night shifts) to share not only a flat but a bed. Sleeping in shifts, their schedules mean they never meet – Tiffy rents the bed via Leon’s girlfriend to begin with – but they soon come to rely on each other’s notes for support.
As Leon’s relationship falters and he tries to help his brother in prison and Tiffy struggles with leaving behind a toxic love affair that’s destroyed her self-esteem, the two become increasingly drawn to each other’s eccentricities and kindness. It’s a portrait painted in the most tender and convincing of ways – made all the more poignant when the two finally meet.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is an ode to love, mates, getting drunk, heartbreak, doing exactly the wrong thing when you’re hurting and, ultimately, trusting your instincts. Jenny (the adorable Gina Rodriguez) lands her dream job only for her long-term boyfriend to end things because he doesn’t want to move from the East Coast to the West.
With a supporting cast of smart, funny and well-conceived women played by DeWanda Wise and Brittany Snow… Friday night sorted.
Imagine: the whole of North America has turned gay thanks to the efforts of the Gay Agenda (and also “realistic depictions of same-sex couples on cable TV”) but there’s a rebel band of heteros and one boy, Mikey Pence (get it?), is discovering that Gay Academy (core curriculum: algebra with glitter) might not be the place for him.
Properly laugh-out-loud funny, Gay Future is a delirious satire on dystopian fiction, conservative paranoia and, ultimately, a tale of letting people love (and be) whoever the hell they want.
Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan
If ever there is proof needed that some of the greatest love stories ever told are about people finding themselves, then Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come by Jessica Pan is it. A self-understanding introvert, Pan decided that her natural setting meant she was missing out on life so, for one year, she forced herself to do the work of an extrovert by trying improv, throwing a dinner party and dating friends. And, she hated every minute of it.
A paeon to knowing thine own self – this is a love story for us all.
Pairing Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen could have happened in just about any rom-com of the past 20 years. But – and this is a big but – Long Shot is a brilliant and funny clear-eyed story, following the unlikely romance between Rogen’s journalist and Theron’s Secretary of State.
With knowing nods to Pretty Woman, US politics (Rogen loses his job when a right-wing mogul takes over his mag; the super-successful Theron is patronised by other politicians) and a cracking soundtrack, it’s a pure delight.
Additional words: Naomi Joseph
Images: Walter Thompson / Phillipe Boss
A version of this article was originally published in our Stylist Loves email in May 2019.