Best Winter Romances on Netflix Instant

This is a joint post with the lovely Jen Heart.

Winter: nights are long, dark, and cold.  When all you want is to wrap up in your Snuggie (™) and hibernate, these winter-esque romances will warm your heart even when the rest of you is shivering.  But be warned: like winter, many of these are a little more dark. To help with the shivering darkness, we’ve suggested some hot steaming drinks to enjoy while you swoon.

2 Autumns, 3 Winters
In this movie, people turn to the camera in the middle of the scene and start commenting on what’s happening. It’s French, so I expected some artsy-fartsy stuff like that. Talking heads also narrate, though they are out of the action and a little less jarring.  Two of the romantic leads, Arman (Vincent Macaigne) and Amelie (Maud Wyler), literally bump into each other in their meet-cute.  But while this is a romantic movie, the stories of Arman and Amelie and their friends deal with some heavy issues having to do with violence and medical emergencies, including a mugging and attempted kidnapping, knifing, stroke, and depression.  Small moments, with lots of diversions and digressions, make up this film, which isn’t action-packed.  Rather, the characters and their lives are illuminated with little vignettes that are sweet and sad.  As the title would suggest, the film contains plenty of winter scenes and also features a chalet with snowy woods and mountains.  There are lots of winter coats, heavy sweaters, and girly, chunky scarves on both men and women.  If 2 Autumns, 3 Winters is a little too dreamy and philosophical for your taste, just focus on Arman’s hair, which combines a bald spot and comb-over with long-ish locks in the most epic way possible.

Drink: Pair this with mulled wine — warm, yet sophisticated, just like this foreign-language film, and will get you just tipsy enough that you can still read the subtitles.

Chalet Girl
Kim (Felicity Jones) is a champion skateboarder who lost her mother in a car crash and is now, with her father, in reduced circumstances, if not financial straits.  While she’s taking care of her apparently inept and unemployed father, she lands a short-term job at a posh ski chalet in the Alps being a “chalet girl” for a rich family with a cute-but-engaged son, Johnny (Ed Westwick).  During her few months in the Alps, she meets some cool people, including real-life snowboarding champion Tara Dakides, and grows close to Johnny through her chalet girl duties, and a series of mishaps.  She also has time to teach herself snowboarding, which she has a natural knack for, with some local friendly ski bums.  Unfortunately, any time she tries to do a big jump, she flashes back to the accident and chokes.  Though something of a rags-to-riches tale, this fun little film presents class issues in a more realistic way than I’ve seen portrayed in other rom-coms just aiming to take advantage of a mismatched class couple.  Plus, there’s no prince charming rescue here: Kim determines her own life, including entering a snowboarding contest with a hefty grand prize.  Be sure to watch through the credits for some fun outtakes.

Drink:  Curl up with a spiked hot chocolate for lots of scenes of young debauchery and ski bunny outfits amidst a background of snow-covered mountains.

The Giant Mechanical Man
The Giant Mechanical Man is one of the smartest romances I’ve seen in a while, and definitely has the most likeable leads I’ve encountered in some time. Tim (Chris Messina of The Mindy Project) and Janice (Jenna Fisher from The Office) play two lost and lonely thirtysomethings, unable to fit in with the people around them–who all seem concerned with cars and shallow conversation and upward mobility. Janice is a laid off temp worker who gets a job at the zoo, where she meets Tim, who’s just started working in sanitation. She doesn’t know it, but he’s also the giant mechanical man she’s seen around town–a performance artist in silver makeup and stilts who “makes people feel less lonely.” I’ve had a strange fear of stilts for years, but I still love that quirky addition to the story and Messina’s character, and the opportunity it presents to show the bleak and beautiful winter cityscape. The supporting actors are also great, playing characters that are sometimes unlikeable but nevertheless three-dimensional. And Tim and Janice are emotionally relatable, their difficulties and dialogue feeling achingly real. I rooted for them hard…and was breathless to see the moment that Janice realizes who Tim really is.

Drink: Serve with well-steeped black tea with just a touch of honey to counteract the bitterness. Sip with a side of pie.

Ice Castles
Ice Castles, a remake of a 1970s tearjerker of the same name, follows figure skater Lexi (played by real-life top women’s skater Taylor Firth) as she rises to fame in the skating world. Unfortunately, coached by the tough, controlling Marcus (Henry Czerny), Lexi’s increasing success means her distance and eventual breakup from her steady hockey player boyfriend, Nick (Rob Mayes). The acting of the two leads, Firth and Mayes, feels sweet and genuine here–which is pretty incredible given that Firth has no other acting credits (or so says IMDB), and the other movie I’ve seen Mayes in, John Dies at the End, is about as different from this film as whole milk is to a shot of tequila. In a strange plot twist near the last third of the movie, Lexi has an accident rendering her blind which felt like her “punishment” for her troubles with Nick–despite those troubles stemming from her honestly struggling to handle her fame versus becoming conceited and dismissive. The accident does bring Lexi and Nick back together, though, as he helps her learn to skate without sight. The end hits a nice note of triumph and romance that brings the feels even with the earlier script wobbliness.

Drink: Serve with a wholesome cup of hot apple cidar mixed with your salty tears.

North & South
This BBC miniseries, based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s 19th-century novel, appears dark and dreary.  Margaret (Daniela Denby-Ashe) and her family are forced to move from the idyllic south to the industrial north, where life is dependant on the manufacturing industry.  Everything is overcast and dirty, and Margaret is stoic, but unhappy.  The family befriends Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage), an owner of one of the cotton mills, though Margaret dislikes him for being gruff and mean, as well as too focused on money and status.  As Margaret slowly begins to understand her new town and the people in it, she grows to see beauty in unexpected places and to correct some of her own misunderstandings and assumptions.  Fans of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy will enjoy the relationship between Margaret and Mr. Thornton, though they are far from being Pride and Prejudice knockoffs.  The series is infused with observations on class, gender, and consumerism, and the two leads bear that out.  Mr. Thornton’s smoldering, brooding appeal is hard-earned by work and socioeconomic sufferings; Margaret is social justice-minded and often outspoken in her attempts to understand and befriend the mill workers.  Their friendship, even when adversarial, is marked by the kinds of misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and quiet longings that make hearts swoon.

Drink:  Pair North and South with bleak black coffee; stir in some sugar after Margaret meets Thornton.

While You Were Sleeping
This one will likely be a rewatch, but like an old warm afghan, While You Were Sleeping is worth snuggling up and watching again. In the 1995 film, Lucy (Sandra Bullock) gets a chance to save the life of the man she’s in love with from afar, Peter (Peter Gallagher), when he falls on the train tracks. He winds up in a coma, and through a series of misunderstandings that could only happen in a rom-com, his family comes to believe Lucy is Peter’s fiancé. And they’re overjoyed, welcoming the lonely Lucy into their world. But then enters Peter’s brother, Jack (Bill Pullman), who’s suspicious of Lucy even as he finds himself increasingly draw to her. Set around Christmas and the icy January after, it’s got enough of a big, loud family and belly laughs to keep you warm–not to mention the unexpected romance between Lucy and Jack, which Bill Pullman manages to inject with a surprising sexiness. Rewatch to at least remind yourself that sometimes it can be good to slip on the ice.

Drink: Serve with hot cocoa laced with peppermint schappes–warm and comforting, with a kick of something unexpected.

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