Romance. There are very few films these days that don’t at least incorporate a love story within their cast of characters. Regardless if it’s needed or not, the romance is there. Romantic comedies and dramas have been popular for as long as film has been around. Definitely longer if you count novels and plays. So it’s natural for the genre to stumble on a few notable tropes.
Love at First Sight is the most recognizable. William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet is a strong example of that. The title characters see each other from across the room at a ball and they immediately fall for each other. However, their love is destined to end tragically due to their rivaling families. West Side Story is heavily influenced by this trope. Tony and Maria live in the streets of New York where two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, rival each other. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story deals with the racial tensions between the two groups. But like its original predecessor, the film ends in tragedy.
Another trope is that of a characters First Love where Character A experiences their first relationship. Sometimes this pans out, but most of the time it ends in heartbreak. 500 Days of Summer depicts the story of Tom Hansen’s relationship with Summer Finn from their first date to long after their breakup. Throughout the film, Tom is convinced that Summer is the one for him. However, Summer doesn’t feel the same way and breaks it off. This leaves Tom to figure out how to move on. As the film progresses, he finally comes to the conclusion that it was better for the both of them to find different people.
Fool for Love is yet another trope for the romance genre. This is when Character A falls for Character B without any guarantee that Character B feels the same way about them. The Hunger Games isn’t exactly a romance film in its entirety, but the story does play with the intrigue of young love. It’s clear early on that Peeta Mellark has feelings for Katniss Everdeen. Katniss, on the other hand, is consumed with simply surviving the games. So when Katniss is called to romance him in front of a wide audience she fails to tell Peeta that it was all for show in order to save his life. She does care for him, but it’s unclear until the next film what her true feelings are. Despite this, Peeta continues to act on love and even sacrifices himself to the Capital for her.
I’m sure there are more tropes that I’m missing. Even the tropes that I mentioned are not isolated to the examples I used. I’m sure a few Nicholas Sparks films fall into those categories. Tropes don’t exactly make a romance film bad. Sometimes it’s repetitive, but as long as the filmmakers can put their original spin on it then the romance can thrive.
The key to any romance story is to convince the audience to root for the couple. Storytellers have to answer the question as to why these two characters need to be together. The connection between the two characters has to be deep enough to be worth all of the conflict that they endure. If done right, it can be very powerful. But if not, the audience rolls their eyes.