|Patel and James in Yesterday|
And here’s the kicker: when I first plotted this novel, I never thought twice about including a love story. My attitude came down to nothing more than “why not?” I think I even believed it was the sort of thing an audience expected. But is it really? And if so, why?
In my post about the film Yesterday, I had said I didn’t believe the romantic subplot between Himesh Patel and Lily James was necessary, since the rest of the film operated on such a fascinating premise: what would happen if the world forgot about the Beatles, except for one guy.
The marketing for the film has included screenwriter Richard Curtis as a selling point, a guy who wrote some hit romance films, like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually. (Curtis has recently confessed that director Danny Boyle made some substantial changes to his Yesterday screenplay.)
|Richard Curtis also wrote and directed|
the SF romance About Time.
But Yesterday is far from the first Hollywood genre movie that shoehorned a little romance into the story. Think about all those old monster or alien flicks that always included two young lovers making goo-goo eyes at each other when the monster wasn’t around. Didn’t you find that needlessly distracting? Didn’t you just want to see more of the monster instead? If that didn’t bother you, I guess your tolerance for sappy romance is stronger than mine, but I’ll bet it’s not the first thing you think about when you think of those movies.
I’m not saying romance is completely incompatible with SF/fantasy; just that it’s hard to combine well, not to mention seamlessly. Most of the time it inevitably takes a backseat to the genre elements. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a notable exception, a film where the romance was the whole point of the movie. The SF elements were important, but once you accepted the premise—technology that erases specific memories from your brain—it’s easy to buy into the rest. Her is another good example of a film where they get the balance right; also Never Let Me Go. And, of course, The Shape of Water.
|Eternal Sunshine is an example of a perfect|
balance between romance and SF.
The love story in Yesterday wasn’t bad, but I would’ve preferred a deeper exploration of this alternate reality and the moral implications of Jack’s decision to pass the Beatles’ work as his own. Now, what if, let’s say, it was Ellie who was a famous rock star and she was retconned out of existence and Jack pretended her music was his? And what if he met a new girl and was conflicted because he still felt beholden to Ellie’s memory? Would that feel more romantic?
I dunno. I’m just throwing it out there. Like I said, seamlessly integrating romance into any kind of genre story, suspense, western, horror, whatever, is hard. If you’re gonna do it, you should make sure you know exactly what you’re doing.