I really hate  modern romantic movies.  They’re syrupy, contain unrealistic characters, and ask us to believe that sheer wackiness is enough to sustain long-lasting love. I contest this. That said, I recently watched what is now one of my favorite love stories of all time: Let The Right One In.

Let The Right One In is the tender story of an alienated and perhaps disturbed pre-teen boy and his sexually ambiguous vampire. Made in 2008, it takes place in 1980s Sweden, during what looks like an exceptionally cold winter. At first glance, it seems more like a Halloween flick than a Valentine’s Day treat—it involves several murders, a man who burns his own face with acid, murderous children who are prone to violence, self-involved alcoholic adults, and a vampire who smells kind of dead. But while this might not sound like the most romantic of movies, it is, in its own twisted way. If you can scrape off the gory, horror-movie icing, you’ll uncover a tasty cake of a story that says a lot of how accepting of difference we are when we truly fall in love.

The boy hero isn’t perturbed by his kinda-girlfriend’s (or boyfriend’s? we’re never sure) blood-drinking ways, her inability to be out in daylight or feel cold, or the fact that she’s been 12 years old for a very long time and has a slightly creepy adult caretaker. He just wants to hold hands with her, platonically share a bed with her, and be with the only character in the movie who seems to love him back. As for the vampire, she doesn’t try to bite or mesmerize the boy, and she’s willing to come to his defense even when it might not be in her best interest. Either that, or she needs somebody to kill her victims for her—it’s hard to tell. But it’s obvious that he adores her, with the depth that one usually feels only when one’s love is true, clean, and bright. If you want to see a movie about love and what it means to feel it for the first time, Let the Right One In could be the one.

Michele Buchanan has been a writer, an adjunct professor of anthropology, an executive recruiter and a marketing specialist. She lives in New Jersey, and blogs at The Cocktail Hour.