So it’s happened yet again: your heart gets shattered into a million pieces the second you’ve become emotionally invested in someone you initially had relatively contained interest in. The good news is that after a couple of heartbreaks putting yourself back together can become almost like second nature. When you know which steps to take – and more importantly, which films to watch – the entire healing process can proceed quickly and efficiently. So next time you find yourself nursing the emotional equivalent of a “Blues Brothers” car wreck pile up, just reach for these films instead and gently make your way through the classic Kubler-Ross five stages of grieving, movie-style:
Denial: “The Notebook” (Nick Cassavetes, 2004)
Ok, the first day or two (or weeks/months. Let’s not forget the infinitely wise and infallible algebraic equations that dictate your time of full grieving will last approximately half the time you actually dated) will be marked by excessive melancholy and that overall feeling of ‘this can’t be happening to me. We had just settled on our future cat’s name last week. How can be breaking up!?’. Setting aside hypothetical pets will be difficult until you can come to grips with reality. For this phase, nothing but the mushiest, sappiest and/or deliciously unbearable romantic cinematic gold will do. Let Rachel and Ryan work their magic. Believe that you can get back together years later even if you’ve just broken up. I mean, people who are meant to be always find their way back in the end…right?
Anger: “Charlie’s Angels” (McG, 2000)
After the sobbing fiasco that the previous stage will likely have generated, this is probably the most enjoyable phase of them all. When comes down to it, anger is a lot more productive and active than sadness, so channel all that rage into getting rid of the gifts, deleting the texts, and wiping the slate clean. “Charlie’s Angels” will provide the perfect fodder to support you during this aggressive phase; not only do those girls look fabulous and kick some serious male booty in the service of pure awesomeness, but one of them actually takes full-blown revenge on a former lover. Does it get any better than this!? Note: for guys, any James Bond film will do.
Bargaining: “When Harry Met Sally” (Rob Reiner, 1989)
The most potentially dangerous phase of them all, and the one most likely to lead to a relapse, so watch out. It’s relatively understandable: like all drugs, love can lead your brain down some pretty questionable decisions, which is why at 2am on a Tuesday, (sober or not) you will eventually think it’s a good idea to text them. ‘Why not?! We can be friends, right? Or friends with benefits…? I mean, it’s better to see them some of the time than none of the time, right?’ Wrong. As the spot-on writing and sharp performances in “When Harry Met Sally” so aptly demonstrate, separating relationships from friendships can get extremely complicated. Which is not to say it’s impossible – it’s just probably not a good idea to backtrack so soon or try and make compromises when you’re not fully recovered yet. Play it safe and watch Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan sing bad karaoke instead. Your dignity and your phone bill will thank you.
Depression: “Moulin Rouge!” (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)
At some point, the full realization of what you have lost will hit you like a ton of bricks. When it does you’re going to want to have an epic tale of true love lost on hand. Let it be noted that numerous films can fulfill this function, but “Moulin Rouge” still remains one of the most beautifully shot and tragically doomed love stories that will bring you on the verge of giving up on going outside to experience real life altogether (let alone relationships). Revel in the darkness, embrace the grim despair of overwhelming hopelessness…and just trust that before you know it, in a Baz-Luhrman-like flash, this too shall pass.
Acceptance: “500 Days of Summer” (Marc Webb, 2009)
Once you feel yourself inching towards stability, you’ve come full circle and it’s time to brood on the non-love, boy-meets-girl masterpiece that is “500 Days of Summer”. Take Tom’s relationship rollercoaster as an indication of the simultaneous pain and beauty of heartbreak, and of the infinite possibility that you possess by simply being alive and being able to get out there and do it all over again – you lucky devil!