The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

5 movies for expats and world travelers looking to stir up romance this Valentine’s Day

Editor’s note: Today we are happy to welcome a new member to the Displaced Nation team, Andy Martin. His debut post introduces our two favorite February’s themes: Valentine’s Day (aka expat love) and displaced movies (in honor of Oscar season). For those who haven’t read Andy’s Random Nomad interview with us, it’s worth knowing that he’s a UK-qualified social worker who now lives in Brazil with his Brazilian wife, and a self-professed football geek.

One of the things I discovered when I moved to Brazil is that Valentine’s Day is not actually celebrated here until 12th June, where it is instead known as Dia dos Namorados (Boyfriend’s/Girlfriend’s Day). The reasoning for this is that 12th June is the eve of St. Anthony’s Day, the saint otherwise known as “the marriage saint.”

Additionally, what the rest of us know as Valentine’s Day (14th February) typically falls during or around the time of Carnaval, and anyone who knows anything about the excesses of Carnaval knows that a holiday to celebrate fidelity may probably be best left until later in the year — say, June time.

Anyhow, seeing as my wife has lived in the UK and now openly embraces British culture she’s suggested that it would only be proper to celebrate both the British and Brazilian holidays — she’s a clever one! And what more traditional way to celebrate than a trip to the cinema?

Bearing this in mind, I’ve made a list of 5 films that couples like us — multicultural, expat, glolo and/or nomadic — might like to watch this coming Valentine’s Day, to stir up the romance of travel that brought you together in the first place…

The one about adventure

IndianaJones_small1) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), dir. Steven Spielberg
An action-adventure drama that pits Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) against a group of Nazis who are searching for the Ark of the Covenant because Adolf Hitler believes it will make their army invincible.

Why I like it: The original Indiana Jones trilogy was released between 1981 and 1989, and despite the pointless release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008, it will forever remain, for my generation at least, what introduced us to the potential excitement of exploring the unknown.

Personal note: I love my in-laws but they neglected their parenting duties in one pretty big way: their failure to introduce my wife to Indiana Jones (a situation that has, thankfully, now been rectified).

Most stunning aspect: Let’s face it, any film that can make archaeology seem like the coolest profession in the world has got to be doing something right hasn’t it?

The ones with the romantic clichés

The traveler is often accused of being a romantic, an idealist and of someone who is running away from life and all the problems and commitments that go with it. The alternative argument is that the traveler is actually taking life by the scruff of the neck and living it to the full.

Either way, two films that best capture this dialectic are the two that often most lionized by today’s generation of travelers:

IntotheWild_small2) Into the Wild (2007), dir. Sean Penn
An adaptation (also by Penn) of the book of the same name, by Jon Krakauer, depicting the true story of Chris McCandless, a 24 year-old American and persistent wanderer whom believed that there was more to life than settling for the 9-5 grind in an office.

Why I like it: My wife introduced me to it (her riposte to my Indiana Jones exasperation). She had watched it early on in our relationship, when she was in Brazil and I was in London — a genuinely long distance relationship.

Personal note: She said that the film’s protagonist, Chris McCandless, reminded her of me — although fortunately our story has had a bit of a happier ending than his (I’ll say no more in order not to ruin it for you).

No half-measures: Boy did McCandless walk the walk, giving away his $24,000 college fund to charity before hitchhiking to Alaska and plunging into the wilderness, gradually seeking the means to remove himself from the “real world. ”

TheMotorcyleDiaries_small3) The Motorcycle Diaries (Spanish: Diarios de motocicleta) (2004), dir. Walter Salles
A biopic of Ernesto “Che” Guevara as a young man, representing an adaptation of Che’s memoir of the same name, recounting the trip he made around South America with his best friend, Alberto Granado.

Why I like it: Whatever you view of Che is, there is actually relatively little politics in the film, although one is introduced to some of the experiences that started to inform what he later became in life. Instead, for the most part, this is a film which perfectly captures what is to be young and curious of the world outside your own town or city. Che and Alberto chase beautiful landscapes and beautiful people, but also volunteer their time to those less fortunate than themselves.

Personal note: This film was the tipping point in inspiring me to travel around South America.

Memorable scene: There’s a great scene that highlights the dichotomy between the travel romanticized by “travelers” and that which is driven by the needs of most other migrants around the world — the topic of my guest post last month for The Displaced Nation. In it Che and Alberto meet an indigenous couple who have been forced from their lands and who are traveling in order to find work. When the couple ask Alberto and Che why they are traveling, they reply: “We travel just to travel.” Confused, the wife replies: “God bless you.”

The one about being displaced

Lost_in_Translation_small4) Lost in Translation (2003), dir. Sofia Coppola
The story of the unlikely bond between an aging movie star, played by the awesome Bill Murray, and a trailing spouse (Scarlett Johansson), after they meet in the bar of their five star hotel in Tokyo.

Why I like it: Life as a nomad is not all about romantic adventures and life-changing experiences — there are also just as many challenges and struggles: homesickness, culture shock and loss being just some of them. Lost in Translation is, perhaps, one of the films that best explores some of these issues.

Additional benefits: The story is poignant, and the film is beautifully shot.

The one that’s not actually about travel or expats

Blood_into_Wine_small5) Blood Into Wine (2010), dirs. Ryan Page & Christopher Pomerenke
A documentary about the Northern Arizona wine industry focusing on the musician Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski and their winery, Caduceus Cellers.

Why I like it: This film doesn’t really have anything to do with either travel or expat life, but I’m including it here because it’s about one of my favorite artists: Maynard James Keenan. A slightly biased choice perhaps, but I think it deserves a merit for the way it encapsulates the spirit of those people who have dreams and then act upon them to make them happen — a spirit which, I think, drives many of us travelers and expats.

Maynard’s dream: Maynard dreams of starting a vineyard in Arizona. Yes, Arizona. Despite the doubts and concerns of the experts he consulted Maynard invested almost his entire fortune, made from working with the bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, to start a vineyard in Arizona — a state entirely unknown for growing wine.

Does he succeed? You’ll have to watch it, I guess… And don’t forget to invite a date!

* * *

Readers, what do you think of Andy’s suggestions? Are these the sorts of films that make you feel romantic, or do you think he’s bonkers? We’re open to any and all comments…as well as to further recommendations of films likely to bring out the romantic side in us glomads!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post from our monthly columnist, James Murray, who right now can be found in front of his fireplace in Boston — and not because he’s in a romantic mood! Far from it…

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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8 responses to “5 movies for expats and world travelers looking to stir up romance this Valentine’s Day

  1. ML Awanohara February 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    @ Andy
    I seem to have adopted the role of devil’s advocate on this site, but my first impression upon scanning your list is that none of these films are the least bit romantic, at least from a female perspective! Four out of five have male protagonists — though I guess you could argue that two of those (Motorcycle Diaries, Blood into Wine) explore the theme of male bonding, or bromance. Something I don’t find very romantic…but maybe it’s just me.

    The other film, Lost in Translation, focuses on a relationship between an older man and much younger woman…which is apparently celibate. It could almost be subtitled “The movie not about sex.” Of the five films you mention it’s the only one I’ve seen in a cinema, and tbh, I found it rather sterile.

    Studies are always coming out saying that Englishmen aren’t big on romance — so I guess I shouldn’t have expected chick flicks to be on the list…?!

    That said, the film I always think of when it comes to expat romance is The English Patient, which besides having “English” in the name, has British stars and a British TCK director, and is based on a novel written by the displaced (from Sri Lanka to Canada) Michael Ondaatje, who won the very English Booker Prize for it.

    So the English can certainly do romance — in literature and on the big screen!

    To recap: The Hungarian geographer, Count László de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), pursues the elegant (and married) Englishwoman Katharine Clifton ( Kristin Scott Thomas) with fierce intensity before being literally consumed by fire. The fact that the action takes place during WWII and that some some of the characters have been forcibly displaced by the war adds poignancy to their love affair…

    And, since we’re prepping for Oscar season, the film did win 9 Academy Awards, including for Best Picture. So when the English do romance, they do it incredibly well. Just sayin’! 🙂

    p.s. Did your wife like Indiana Jones? I’m genuinely curious…

  2. andyhpmartin February 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Guilty as charged in terms of choosing my favourite films about travel (as opposed to romantic ones). Good point about the lack of women in them too, wasn’t even something that had crossed my mind.

    As for the lack of actual romance – again, guilty as charged. I have an aversion to happy endings in films, as my wife said when I mentioned your comment!

    However, I’m not sure I go with the argument that by not watching chick flicks it necessarily means you’re not romantic. I’d go with your choice of The English Patient though. Great film.

    PS. Yes, she did like Indy although not as much as Back To the Future apparently. She doesn’t like ‘chick flicks’ either…

  3. awindram February 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm


    “Studies are always coming out saying that Englishmen aren’t big on romance — so I guess I shouldn’t have expected chick flicks to be on the list…?!”

    We do seem to have a romantic tradition that errs towards the morose; more “The End of the Affair” than “An Affair to Remember.”

  4. bornagainbrazilian February 14, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Reblogged this on born again brazilian and commented:
    For those of you out of the U.S., don’t forget – it’s Valentine’s Day!

  5. The Gritty Poet February 14, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    I know it is an obvious choice (or perhaps not) but despite its fairytale nature Don Juan de Marco is
    a great expat love story.
    Dr. Jack Michler: “Sadly, I must report that the last patient I ever treated, the great lover Don Juan DeMarco, suffered from a romanticism which was completely incurable, and even worse, highly contagious.”

  6. Pingback: My interview is posted | The Panama Adventure

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