A&E Pick of the Week

For Valentine’s Day, rom-coms often get all the press — who doesn’t want a charming trifle for this most romantic of holidays? But sometimes, romantic drama is the way to go, getting yourself lost in something gorgeously swoonworthy. Here are a baker’s dozen of my favorite dramas about love. I’ve noted the streaming services that include them, but all can likely be rented from services like Vudu, Google Play, Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video, or available on DVD at the public library or Scarecrow Video. Happy Valentine’s Day to all; may it be filled with sweeping music and devastating glances.

Welcome to one of the most love-filled days of the year! Whether you’re riding solo or spending the day with loved one(s), here’s our guide to Valentine’s Day in the Seattle area: romantic and sweet-filled walks, date ideas, reader memories and more.


The Age of Innocence” (1993): If you’re liking HBO’s “The Gilded Age,” you will LOVE this lush Martin Scorsese film, based on Edith Wharton’s novel of passion, propriety and regret in Old New York. Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis, particularly in a quiet but insanely steamy scene in a carriage, radiate impossibly gorgeous chemistry. (Streaming on Amazon Prime Video)

Bright Star” (2009): Jane Campion, in the Oscar hunt this year for “The Power of the Dog,” wrote and directed this exquisite, heartbreaking drama about the poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his doomed romance with his neighbor, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). It’s as much an ode to poetry as it is to love. (Netflix)

Casablanca” (1942): Need I say anything about this one? Bogie, Bergman and “As Time Goes By.” Classic for a reason. (HBO Max)

Crazy Heart (2009): Even though it won a couple of Oscars (including best actor for Jeff Bridges), I think a lot of people missed this delicate character drama. It’s worth tracking down. Bridges, as a worn-down country singer, gives one of his great career’s best performances (a lovely companion piece to his work in “The Fabulous Baker Boys”). Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the journalist with whom he finds a gentle connection. (Amazon Prime)


Disobedience” (2018): Another one that wasn’t widely seen, this quiet but passionate film takes place within an Orthodox Jewish community in London, where two women (Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams) — one now married — secretly rekindle a long-ago-forbidden relationship. It’s director Sebastian Lelio’s first English-language film, and much of it is told wordlessly, with great generosity of spirit toward its characters. (Hulu)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981): If you love romantic drama and you haven’t seen this one, have I got a treat for you. Picture a young Meryl Streep and a young Jeremy Irons, in dual roles: They’re playing actors filming a swoony period drama while carrying on an affair. I first saw this movie while young and impressionable, and it’s occupied prime real estate in my mind ever since. (HBO Max)

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018): Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) makes gorgeous films, and this one, based on the James Baldwin novel, finds exquisite cinematic language for love and longing. It’s a terribly sad story — a young couple (KiKi Layne, Stephan James) is separated when one is unjustly incarcerated — but love, in all its forms, shines brightly in every frame. (Hulu)

“In the Mood for Love (2000): I couldn’t leave out Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece of romantic yearning; it’s easily in my top 10 movies of all time. Set in 1962 Hong Kong, it’s a simple story of two people (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) whose spouses are having an affair — but oh, the lushness of its colors, the hypnotic velvet of its score, the poignancy of the main characters’ quiet expressions. I may just have to watch it again right now. (HBO Max)

Love & Basketball” (2000): You don’t have to be a sports fan to love Gina Prince-Bythewood’s warmhearted tale of two kids (Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps) growing up, falling hard for basketball and for each other. And note that, though this one isn’t a comedy, it does have the happiest of endings. (HBO Max)

“Loving (2016): Based on the true-life story of an interracial couple who just wanted to raise their family in their small Virginia town (and whose case led to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down state laws banning interracial marriage), this sensitive and lovely film is about a fight for justice and about two people (played with quiet chemistry by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) who have found home in each other. (Netflix)


“Phantom Thread” (2017): If you like your romantic dramas with an elegant dollop of weird, check out Paul Thomas Anderson’s tale of a midcentury London fashion designer (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his unexpected muse (Vicky Krieps). Gorgeous, mesmerizing and thoroughly odd; just try to look away. (Netflix)

The Photograph” (2020): Stella Meghie’s old-school drama was one of the last films I saw in a theater before the pandemic arrived two years ago, and I remember it like a romantic dream. In it, two lovely people (Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield) dig into the past while falling for each other in the present; it’s a pleasure to fall along with them. (HBO Max)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (2019): Another swoony period romance, this time set on an island in 1770s France, where two women — one an artist (Noémie Merlant) hired to paint an engagement portrait of the other (Adèle Haenel) — find unexpected passion together. It’s a gorgeous slow burn; little happens, but everything happens, as writer/director Celine Sciamma immerses us in painterly beauty. (Hulu)