I’ve been trying for some days now to think of something really romantic to recommend to people for Valentine’s Day. But it seems that many of the things I thought were romantic are, in fact, creepy. I’ve learned this since getting married and showing my husband some of my favorite films.
Granted, everyone knows Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is kind of … problematic. I have made my peace with this fact. And, sure, My Fair Lady is famously ambivalent. (“What is wrong with Shaw? You didn’t tell me it was all about the threat of sexual violence!”) And it’s true, The Major and the Minor was much weirder than I remembered it being. I began to worry about my younger self.
But I think—think, mind you—that I Know Where I’m Going! is still a safe bet for romantic viewing. Not that the 1945 film isn’t peculiar, of course. It is. But it’s peculiar in that way that characterizes all Powell-Pressburger productions, which is to say charming and a bit eccentric and thoroughly, rhapsodically British. IKWIG is the story of an independent young woman who goes to the Scottish Hebrides to marry her wealthy fiancé; in the process she’s stranded by bad weather. Romance, hunting dogs, a great deal of reserve, a cèilidh, and stunning on-location scenery ensues.
Now, here’s the thing. Not everyone finds the romance plausible. I’ve had some people find Wendy Hiller’s portrayal too brittle, too arch; others find the pace improbable. One friend found the male lead insufficiently dashing—although in the interests of full disclosure, he was an early crush for me.
But whatever you think of the actual romance going on, you will fall hopelessly in love with the scenery, the island, the sense of life there, and the character played by a young Petula Clark. (Not in a Major and the Minor way.) Think of it as a glorious destination wedding where you may or may not approve of the marriage but can thoroughly enjoy the party. If you need further convincing, I give you the following exchange from our screening:
“He’s a bit odd, isn’t he?”
A perfect credo for Valentine’s Day.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.