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.

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  • Gargantua February 25, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Maybe I am just too cynical, but by the end of this movie I thought that the vampire girl had been manipulating the poor kid from the beginning. She knew she would soon need another “guardian” and she set her sights on a boy who didn’t fit in. She was teaching him to defend himself so when the time came, he could defend her. But as I said, I’m cynical.

  • Michele Buchanan February 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    My current three favorite tv shows are True Blood, Burn Notice, and In Plain sight. All of them are about adult love among cranky characters who would be unbearable in real life- except to each other.
    Sookie and Eric belong together- he’s devious as hell but very protective of what is his, and she’s as stubborn as anything after having been molested and orphaned. Michael and Fiona are, if one wants to be honest, former assassins/con artists. She’s one step from being a sociopath (I’d argue that she is one) and Michael is what you get when you teach an emotionally abused and neglected child how to kill for his government. They can only tell their truths to each other. Mary is a bitter, alienated child of a criminal and an alcoholic, which is why she’s a straight arrow to the point of madness. Marshall is an annoying know it all who’s too smart for his job, with incredible moral strength. They won’t admit it, but they understand each other, and they wouldn’t be as good with anybody else.
    It’s funny, but purportedly feminist sites like Jezebel tend to ignore these shows, or concentrate on the sexytime. But how many shows are about grownups – with the kind of heavy baggage grownups often have, particularly if they grew up damaged – who have a chance at happiness with someone who realizes that damage isn’t always a bad thing? It’s the imperfections that make us special. And all of these characters, in part, draw their strength from how they handle being damaged. They make the best of it, in their own bumbling ways, and by doing so become beautiful to each other.

  • Elizabeth W February 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I was always quite fond of Grosse Pointe Blank for a lot of the same reasons. It’s dark, strange, and twisted, definitely far outside the typical romance tropes… but- the real meaning of love and honesty is there, in between the snark and violence and ska music.