Movies about love aren’t always love stories

I think about Wong Kar-Wai’s “Chungking Express” a lot. It’s the only movie I have thought about every day since I watched it. What hits me most about it is that it showcases a kind of love that isn’t often portrayed on screen. A subtle, secretive and oftentimes unreciprocated kind of love that stems from powerful, lyrical loneliness.

“Chungking Express” follows two Hong Kong police officers, one after the other, as they attempt to triumph over heartbreak and eradicate themselves from newfound loneliness. The officers never meet – it’s one story after the other. But there is a connection between the two, a woman who works at the same food stand they both frequent.

The first officer is known as He Zhiwu or just as Cop 223, his badge number. He finds out that he is being dumped by a long term girlfriend while on the payphone in front of the food stand. The next month, he purchases a can of pineapples every night with the same expiration date, his ex-girlfriend’s birthday.

He moves through the world in a different way after his breakup. He starts talking to stuffed animals and is enamored by a mysterious woman in a blonde wig who he meets at a bar. The woman and him spend a night together where there is no sexual intimacy, just two loners enjoying the melancholic company of one another.

Later, he bumps into the woman who works at the food stand, and it bridges the story between him and the other police officer, who is only known as Policeman 663, takes over.

Cop 223 is the narrator for the first half of the movie, and his last words came when he bumps into the woman. “At the closest point of our intimacy, we were just one centimeter apart from each other, I knew nothing about her. Six hours later, she fell in love with another man.”

The movie hands off one story to another with a great deal of care, and it does this quickly. When thinking about Valentine’s Day-esque movies and films that depict someone in pursuit of love, it seems that they are usually loud and very outgoing about it. That seems to be unrealistic compared to the real human experience.

Instead of being quick to jump out and make the huge move to swift someone up off their feet, things are often much more subtle than that. People tend to be quiet about their pursuits of love. It’s about the little things – the things that make us obsess over someone or something. It’s the tiny, hard to describe movements, looks, or angles that keep people in our minds.

Often we border on creepiness when looking around and moving through the world. We wake up thinking about people and go to sleep thinking about them. There’s an obsession that is toeing the line between healthy and unhealthy.

People love to say that life isn’t like the movies. This is true to an extent. Life isn’t like most movies. We can escape into them and not have to apply our own experiences to them. They can be fun theme parks. Yet each movie has the ability to change your life.

Movies that have the ability to change lives generally resonate with a part of life that you can’t communicate clearly, like loneliness and longing. Seeing the guy “get the girl” is not as powerful as the struggle part of it. There is room for cheesy rom-coms starring Adam Sandler and a woman who is probably too attractive for him getting together in a random vacation destination. Those are fun, silly and goofy, which is needed.

There are movies that also attack at little parts of your life like how “Chungking Express” does. Of course, I’ve never bought a can of pineapples with an ex’s birthday as the expiration date, but I can empathize with the position of someone who would do so. It isn’t about pitying people in stories, it is about understanding their response to great heartbreak.

Valentine’s Day hate is very silly. What is the purpose of standing up and yelling about how it’s a commercial holiday? You really just look like a fool. So what if people try to make money off of it? You can be single and still appreciate the holiday. The holiday is still celebrating the best and most unforgiving human condition, love. Don’t be mad at the world that you are single, just enjoy that love is around and that it exists.