Why the Fuss about Valentine's Day? (And 14 Movies to Help You Celebrate!)

By: Brigid Coyne

By Brigid Coyne

It was not until I took a college course on Geoffrey Chaucer that I understood the origins of Valentine’s Day as we know it today. In a 14th century poem titled,The Parliament of Fowls,” Chaucer tells the story of a man who dreams of Nature, as she rules over a parliament of birds at the Temple of Venus. Venus is the goddess of love, and the birds at her temple are selecting their mates on the feast day of St. Valentine. This is the first known reference of St. Valentine’s feast in association with any sort of love or romance, although February had long been a brutal celebration of pagan courting rituals. However, it is a rather comical poem–the only “romance” stems from three male eagles who fight to woo a female eagle. In the end, Nature allows this eagle to postpone her mate selection another year, because the male eagles act like three middle school boys who are unworthy of her affection. It’s actually rather humorous that Hallmark branded Valentine’s Day as a serious celebration of love and romance when it stems from such a comical poem!

On the other hand, the tradition of giving valentines on February 14th might come from the life of St. Valentine, rather than the poem by Chaucer. There is little historical fact about Valentine, except that he was a Christian martyred on February 14th, some time in the 3rd century AD. However, custom tells us that he was a bishop who was imprisoned during the Roman persecutions of Christians. While he was in prison, little children would come to visit him, bringing little notes and drawings as encouragement to him during his last days of life on earth. Another variation of the legend is that he miraculously cured his jailer's daughter of blindness and sent her a letter before his execution, signing it: “your Valentine.” Today, we carry on this tradition, giving “valentines” as encouragement and signs of affection for our loved ones. (If you need some light-hearted tips on how to write the perfect valentine this year, check out our What's So Funny! advice column.)

With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of you may be at a loss, as it is a tricky holiday to navigate because it relies upon a subjective understanding of your relationship. Some of you may be exploring the first stages of a new relationship, and you’re not quite sure if your S.O. is ready to celebrate with you. Others of you may be in your 16th year of marriage, so the uncertainty lies in how elaborate a date you want to plan this year (is it even worth looking for a sitter?). Whatever your relationship status, you probably aren’t excited at the prospect of breaking the bank for a “Hallmark holiday” with humorous or brutal pagan origins. Not to worry! At The Front Porch People, we’re here to provide you with the perfect (and rather obvious) solution: a romantic movie night in!

If you’re like most women, than you know that there is no better time than Valentine’s Day to suggest a “chick flick” to your significant other; it is the one time of year that men are forced to comply with our desires for the cheesiest of romances or the most heartbreaking of sob stories. However, if your S.O. is like most men, then this opportunity is a rare one, and you should definitely take full advantage of it! That being the case, The Front Porch People can help you select the perfect film with our list of 14 (supposedly) romantic movie reviews for February 14!

1. Crazy, Stupid, Love

Ann: Green Light

Les: Green Light

Ann and Les loved this comedy which follows the romances of three different generations (even though they thought the ending got a little too cheesy). This is a great movie for couples of any age, for families and friends. Because it is cross-generational, Mom, daughter and grandma will find something to love about this!

Full Review:

2. The Time Traveler's Wife

Ann: Red Light

Les: Yellow Light

Ann thought this movie was confusing and messy, and Les thought it did not live up to the "magic" of the book. However, for those who have never read the book, this might be a surprising romance that provides food for thought. Do you and your loved one enjoy a touch of sci-fi or fantasy? Listen to the review to see if this is the Valentine's flick for you.

Full Review:

3. Letters to Juliet

Ann: Yellow Light

Les: Yellow Light

Our reviewers thought this film was a little too cheesy for adults, and they were disappointed by Amanda Seyfried's performance. Ann says that: “It’s slumber party fare. It’s perfect for parents to rent for their tween-daughters hosting a sleepover.” This could be the perfect film for high schoolers or a girls night!

Full Review:

4. Blue Valentine

Ann: Green Light

Les: Green Light

If you love tearjerkers, this is the perfect film for you. Ann loves the authenticity of the main characters, which Les calls "absolutely heartbreaking." They were blown away by the vivid portrayals of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who make this one of the most realistic relationships ever seen on screen. Find out more with our review:

Full Review:

5. Silver Linings Playbook

Ann: Green Light

Les: Green Light

Ann & Les love everything about this film, including the writing, the direction and the brilliant performances of the cast! It takes a close look at people who we would call "mentally ill," giving us perspective on what it is like to be perceived as different. It is filled with hope, and it shows us how people can heal one another. The football-crazed father might even keep the guys interested!

Full Review:

6. (500) Days of SummerAnn: Green Light

Les: Green Light

This film is similar to Blue Valentine insofar as it portrays an intense and realistic relationship. Ann and Les really appreciated the sincerity of the characters, and they liked that the story wasn't "sugar-coated." Everything doesn't work out perfectly with typical Hollywood romance, so it seemed very refreshing to them. This might be good for the slightly more cynical couples out there!

Full Review:

7. The Theory of Everything

Ann: Green Light

Les: Green Light

Ann and Les agree that what makes "The Theory of Everything" so wonderful is the performance of the two stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. This biographical film is based on scientist, Steven Hawking. His life is portrayed with beauty and hope, and it is a film that will touch anybody. We suggest this movie if your guy is into science & technology!

Full Review:

8. Anna Karenina

Ann: Yellow Light

Les: Yellow Light

While this film possesses some of the most beautiful costumes and cinematography that Les has ever seen, it does not fully satisfy his imagination. Ann says that Tolstoy's novel didn't give the screenplay writers enough material to work with, but she agrees that the direction and cinematography is amazing. This is great for bibliophiles who liked the Russian novel!

Full Review:

9. The Light Between Oceans

Ann: Green Light

Les: Yellow Light

Our reviewers agreed about the great performances and scenery in this film. Ann was also awed by the questions brought up in this film, but Les was a little uncomfortable with its thought-provoking nature. For those of you who are more philosophically inclined and like a movie that will spark ethics debates, we recommend The Light Between Oceans. Warning: this is also a heart-wrenching film, so it's only good if you're ready for a tearjerker.

Full Review:

10. Hello, My Name is Doris

Ann: Green Light

Les: Yellow Light

Ann thinks older women will simply adore this film, and Les thinks so too...it's just too bad that he isn't an older woman! Despite its niche storyline, Les sees the film's merits, which is why we're recommending it for senior couples or a girls night.

Full Review:

11. Water for Elephants

Ann: Red Light

Les: Yellow Light

The casting is the real "elephant in the room" according to Ann! The chemistry between the leads is not very believable in this film. Despite this, Les liked the storyline enough for him to give this a yellow light.

Full Review:

12. Maggie's Plan

Ann: Yellow Light

Les: Yellow Light

Ann and Les say that this is like "a bad Woody Allen movie," and they were bothered by both the pretentiousness and the complaining of the characters. The premise of the film is also exaggerated beyond the bounds of entertainment.

Full Review:

13. Leap Year

Ann: Green Light

Les: Yellow Light

Ann loves this film because it reminds her of the innocent romantic comedies of the 1940's. Amy Adams and Matthew Goode demonstrate hilarious chemistry on screen, and they execute their roles to perfection. The script is well-written with a constantly amusing rapport between the two leads. It's the perfect flick to watch with your own handsome Irishman!

Full Review:

14. Valentine's Day

Ann: Red Light

Les: Red Light

Sometimes red isn't a good thing on Valentine's Day...the red lights from our reviewers mean this film is not worth watching! Ann and Les get lost in the jumble of relationships that don't connect until the end of the film. There was not enough time spent on any character to make you feel attached to them, and this film was an utter failure.

Full Review:

Now that we know the origins of this holiday and see that Chaucer's female eagle was in control of Valentine’s Day, why don’t today’s ladies take the extra steps to make sure that guys are equally excited about this date night movie? If you want it to be a true success, we recommend taking his preferences into account. Pick Silver Linings Playbook if he’s a sports guy, or The Theory of Everything if he's a science nerd. These might not be his favorite films, but at least you’ll probably get him to stay awake the whole time!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these quick introductions to our favorite Romances! If any have piqued your interest, go back and listen to the full review. For an added bonus, click on the hyperlinked film titles to be taken to each of the review pages with a fun and engaging quiz about that movie!

The Front Porch wishes you luck on your date planning and a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photo: Scholastic

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