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If you were to compose a list (and many people have) of the important parts of movie script, it would include things like plot, conflict, and resolution. But it would almost always also include relationships.

Relationships can certainly be defined as broadly as the relationship a character has with the audience, but more routinely that’s viewed as the relationships that characters have with each other. Sometimes that’s a best friends’ relationship or a siblings’ relationship, but in many, many movies there is a romantic relationship that is featured as central to the film’s storyline.

Obviously we have a whole genre of films described as romances, but too often there is a Hollywood element to those relationships. As much as we swoon with Satine when Ewan breaks into the first lines of “Your Song,” we’re never going to be in that situation. (I mean, seriously, how many of us are currently wooing a courtesan who is secretly dying of tuberculosis in early twentieth century Paris?) Nor will we ever recognize our situations in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation or, thanks to our son, call into a radio show and met true love at the top of the Empire State Building. Many of these movies are good, but Hollywood is prone to being grandiose and it shows as the credits roll while the lovers ride off into the sunset. In fact, I would argue that these cinematic romances actually hurt our actual love lives. We have seen the magical kiss enough times that it becomes what we want or even need. You may be in a perfectly satisfactory marriage but pretty soon your subconscious starts yelling at you that you need to find someone who is going to fill your life with lines like, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

But the thing is life is full of real people who are really in love. And every once in a while, a filmmaker realizes that he/she doesn’t have to exaggerate to tell a compelling romantic tale. I’m highlighting three films that I think get it right. These movies are mostly just conversations, because that’s what people do. We talk with each other and through that exchange of words we determine affections; we fall in love.

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This article was first posted on February 8, 2013