When it comes to the complicated world of love, even the movies can sometimes get it right.
In the sea of googly eyed couples born and bred on Hollywood sound stages, it can get frustrating trying to separate romantic fact from movie studio fiction. From Lloyd Dobler's iconic boombox serenade in Say Anything to Anna Scott's endlessly quoted finale monologue in Notting Hill, movies and television have mastered the art of idealized love, but as we all know, things are not always as they seem when they're on the silver screen.
As Emma Stone's character so poetically pointed out in 2010 Easy A, "I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80's movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life."
Sure, real-life matters of the heart are not as glossy as we may find them in the romantic comedy section of Netflix, but if you look hard enough, you're bound to find a touch of reality in between Cinderella and Twilight.
Take Sex and the City. No, we're not talking about Manolo Blahnik aficionado Carrie Bradshaw, but her gal pal Charlotte Yorke Goldenblatt. Sure, she's the "Park Avenue Pollyanna" of the group, but her rocky road to love gave fans material ripped right out of the pages of their own love lives.
In the midst of a divorce from a seemingly perfect man uninterested in becoming a father, Charlotte finds herself falling in love with Harry Goldenblatt, her divorce lawyer and the complete opposite of what she envisioned for her happily ever after. "He's not very attractive. He's sweaty and pushy. No, no, I could never date him," she famously remarked.
But, she did and—to top off the confusion—she fell in love. However, things got far more complicated as Harry was Jewish, Charlotte was Episcopalian and someone needed to convert if they wanted to wed, which ultimately she wanted enough to dive into a new faith. After heading full force into Judaism and becoming Mrs. Goldenblatt, the couple faced another hurdle when they couldn't conceive, despite every last biological effort.
Ultimately, they did become parents to a little girl they adopted and later, a second daughter they had unexpectedly. Their parental triumphs became the victories of women watching in their own living rooms. Not to mention, women suddenly had the hots for bald and brash.
" [I] had a lot of young beautiful women tell me they wish they had a Harry Goldenblatt for themselves," actor Evan Handler told Forward.
Realistic parenthood—and its many ups and downs—has become a recurring theme in modern storytelling, including in NBC's recent hit This Is Us, the story of Jack and Rebecca, mom and dad to a trio. However, after one of their triplets dies in child birth, they adopt an abandoned African American baby and take on the trials and tribulations of raising a black son in a white family in the '70s.
In the process, they manage the problems their overweight teenage daughter faces all while trying to maintain the glory of their formerly uncomplicated lives as a twosome.
"I think that's what's so great about this show: It is for everyone," Milo Ventimiglia previously told E! News. "There is no separation between gender or race or age or weight, sexual preferences, anything, nothing. It's human beings."
"I think it's resonating with people because we all inherently like to be moved. We like something cathartic. We like being able to watch something that we can relate to, but also that reminds us that we're all human and we're in this together," Mandy Moore added.
There are few romance films more cathartic than the 1970 classic, Love Story. In the tale of wealthy prep Oliver Barrett IV and blue collar classical musician Jennifer Cavalleri, tear ducts ran dry as the two college students from opposite sides of town fell for each other at Harvard University and married against the wishes of a certain rich kid's father.
While overcome with newlywed bliss, their funds run dry since being cut off from Oliver's family fortune and the couple enters into the the school of reality—Jenny works as a teacher while Oliver hustles to get his law degree. While they do eventually find success and begin to try for a baby, Jenny finds out she is (spoiler alert!) terminally ill and tragically dies in the final moments of the film.
"The story itself just touched people," Ali MacGraw told Town & Country in 2016. "It continues to stun me that it does."
An equally tragic—but realistic—duo on screen is Derek Shepherd and Meredith Grey of Grey's Anatomy fame. What began as a one-night stand blossomed into a fierce, complicated love tested by an ex-wife, separate and strong careers, three children and several serious work hazards.
As devoted fans of the series sadly know, the couple that withstood the show's first eleven seasons ultimately ended when Shepherd was tragically killed in a car crash. Even in the series' most devastating moment, the actors used it as an opportunity to pay tribute to the those watching who may have endured far worse.
"There are so many people out there who have suffered tremendous loss and tragedy. Husbands and wives of soldiers, victims of senseless violence and parents who have lost children," Pompeo wrote on Instagram.
"People who get up each day and do what feels like is the impossible. So it it for these people and in the spirit of resilience I am honored and excited to tell the story of how Meredith goes on in the face of what feels like the impossible."
Still on the small screen, How I Met Your Mother gave fans the relatable couple of their dreams in Marshall and Lily. Their life course was not so straightforward (they broke off their first engagement) and their post-marriage path was riddled with all of the typical problems that afflict married pairs, like work troubles, uprooting their families to the suburbs and the loss of parents. Still, despite it all, they persisted with love on their side.
As Alyson Hannigan told The Times of India of the characters' relationship, "It just seems real to me."