Start thinking about the most romantic scenes in film and your mind will wander. Moments tend to blur together, becoming intertwined, each moment reflected in another. Love most vididly expresses itself in moments seemingly gone before they've arrived, and cinema is made of stolen moments. When a movie manages to capture true romance, there's the sense that something priceless has been preserved - the scene will go on, like a perfect memory, both exhilarating and sweetly sad.
Some of these moments achieve a sort of transcendent artifice. The idealized Hollywood love stories leave no room for the complexities of the real thing, but this is not necessarily dishonest. In their carefully orchestrated serendipity we can trace the origins of our own longing, our need to believe in something eternal. When they work that well, no matter how improbable they may be, we can't help it - they send us.
Others confront the complications of real relationships head-on, mirroring our own experience. What they say about love is sometimes reassuring, other times not. In these films there is the acceptance of people as they are - fucked-up, insecure, oblivious - and the hope that, ultimately, love will triumph no matter how many times we shoot ourselves in the foot.
Many focus on love in the face of death. The worst ones reduce the tragic, beautiful truth of our need to love in the face of inevitable loss to inane, condescending Hallmark cards. The best ones remind us how love itself can be an act of bravery.
Some celebrate love that cannot be expressed but refuses to be silenced.
Some celebrate romance in the most unlikely of places.
Some are funny.
Some are creepy.
Some are crazy.
Some are totally fucking sexy.
And sometimes, they remind us of everything love can bring out in us - trust, understanding, acceptance - inspiring us to, at last, be everything we've always wanted to be.
So for those of us who count the movies among our first loves, we return again and again, hoping to be moved, to believe in the power of the moving images to speak to us, to live in those perfect moments.