Great travel romance films

I wrote this blog for the Momentum Moonlight blog

Anyone who has read my novel Trouble Brewing will know that I like a bit of travel with my romance. In fact, there’s nothing more romantic than exploring a new place with a lover. Or romancing yourself and setting out on the road alone. And when you’re unable to travel, a good film will take you there. Here are a few films to travel with, without leaving home.


The journey of Celine and Jesse.
The journey of Celine and Jesse.

The “Before” movies (Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight)

For travel romance you simply can’t do better than this wonderful trilogy. In the first instalment, Before Sunrise, American Jessie meets French Celine on a train in Europe. They get off the train together and spend one romantic night together in Vienna. As they part, they promise to meet again in six months … but do they?

Fans of the film had to wait nine long years to find out. Before Sunset takes place in Paris, where the characters are older, more cynical, and still inexplicably drawn to each other. They spend one afternoon walking and talking the streets of Paris. As the credits roll, we‘re left wondering, “Do they stay together?”

Fast-forward another nine-years to the third instalment, Before Midnight. This time their relationship is played out against the spectacular backdrop of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula. This is travel romance at its most sublime: great acting, writing and directing, excellent chemistry between the stars … and each setting used to perfection.


Lost in Translation

I lived in Tokyo for years and this beautiful film captures the city perfectly. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, an aging movie star who’s in Japan to shoot a whiskey commercial. (I was in a bunch of Japanese TV commercials and the scenes with Murray on set are hilarious and absolutely realistic.)

Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, the disillusioned wife of a self-absorbed photographer on assignment in Tokyo. Both Charlotte and Bob are holed up in the Hyatt (life sucks for them) and meet in the bar. They strike up an unusual friendship, which is explored with grace and restraint. Given another director at the helm and the film would’ve had them falling into bed together and me heading for a bucket. But director Sophia Coppola truly understands the unique connection two strangers can feel for each another in a strange land. Lost in Translation is like taking time out in Tokyo.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I’m off to India in a month, so recently revisited the Marigold. It’s set in Jaipur (yep, going there) where a bunch of “older” Brits arrive to take up residence in a retiree hotel. They arrive to find the hotel looking nothing like it did in the brochure. Oh no! What happens next is movie filler… then most of them fall in love with India. The end.

Okay, so the plot is a little predictable, but it’s a stellar cast, with Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. I am always excited to see good roles for older actors, especially those with facial expressions and wrinkles. Throw in a colourful, crazy Rajasthani backdrop, and this is a definite travel romance, feel good film.


Cairo Time

Apparently I’m on of the very few people who enjoyed this lovely film. Reviews weren’t great, but Cairo Time did for me what good travel romance films are meant to do—it transported me to another place and made me yearn to be there.

Juliette, played by the awesome Patricia Clarkson, is an American magazine editor who arrives in Cairo to spend time with her husband, a diplomat. However he’s held up elsewhere and has organised for his former employee and friend, Tareq to show Juliette around. And it doesn’t take Juliette long to realise she doesn’t miss her husband, and instead enjoys his friend’s company a little too much.

There are shades of Lost in Translation here. The director takes her time. The characters don’t give into their desire. Instead the attraction is subtly played and the focus remains on the city it unfolds in, this time Cairo, which is beautifully shot. As the credits rolled, I was booking a ticket …


The Way

While not technically a romance, I believe a good travel romance film can be when the protagonist undergoes a personal transformation—when they romance themselves.

The Way is the story of a rather conservative father (Martin Sheen) who goes to France to collect the body of his free-spirited son who has been found dead on the French side of the Pyrenees of the El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James). After the heart wrenching viewing of his son’s body, (Sheen’s real-life son Emilio Estevez, who directed the film, was in the body bag) he makes the uncharacteristically spontaneous decision to walk the Camino for his son, who didn’t make it far, and scatter his ashes along the way. He sets off, determined to complete the task as quickly as possible, but along ‘the way” meets a ragtag group of characters who help him slow down and enjoy the journey, and in the process truly honour his son, as well as himself.

It’s a wonderful film for travellers, and if you haven’t already walked the Camino then you’ll probably add it to your list. The Way is a beautiful reminder to treasure life and embrace the journey. As the movie poster logline reminds you, don’t choose your life … live it.


Honourable mentions:

Under the Tuscan Sun: Buying an Italian farmhouse and starting a new life? One can dream.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Glamour, romance and scamming people on the French Riviera. This classic film makes it look fun.

Mama Mia: A gorgeous Greek island and ABBA songs. Does it get any better than this?

Casino Royale: The sexiest Bond in years zips from glamorous location to fabulous destination, including lots of places starting with M, like Madagascar, Miami and Montenegro.

A Room With a View: A young English woman spends time in Florence. Florence. Yes. Enough said.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: There are all sorts of complicated relationships in this Woody Allen gem, but watching Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz on screen together with a Barcelona backdrop is simply sexy.

Midnight in Paris: Another Woody Allen travelogue, this time with Paris, past and present as the setting.