Romantic Movies as Couples’ Therapy?

In the December issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Researchers at the Relationship Institute at UCLA published findings that the divorce rate decreased by half in couples that discussed one relationship movie per week. At the risk of coming off as an insufferable gloater, have I not argued ad nauseum the structuring capacity of film?

Reporting on the study, MDConnects.com explained that “The findings show that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple movie-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods-reducing the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after three years.”

After attending a ten minute lecture on the nature of relationships, participants “then watched Two for the Road, a 1967 romantic comedy about the joys and strains of young love, infidelity, and professional pressures across 12 years of a marriage. Afterward, each couple met separately to discuss a list of 12 questions about the screen couple’s interactions.”

In historical context, essentially this study confirms what the Romantics insisted in every scrap of poetry they ever penned, every apologia produced, or idea expressed (and which the ancient Greeks would have found surprising it even needed mentioning). Take the poetry of Wordsworth’s for instance, which announced in the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads with immolating candor the desire to produce a humanist literature that would remind humans what it took to earn that title of ‘human’. Film, hailed as it was the necessary extension of that idealistic (dare I say, romantic) impulse by theorists like Eisenstein, enables this potential for any who might seek its power.

In this new study we have something approaching proof of film’s humanizing potential. This new study ought to give filmmakers pause then, so that they may reflect on the potential of their art, and to consider what its continued cultivation may bring. One way to achieve this, I have already argued (indeed, this entire blog stands as testament), is by reflecting on the very methods and conditions which anticipated and produced this effect. This accountability may sound laughably idealistic, but it bears considering that to whom much has been given, much will be expected; and the more entrusted, the more demanded. Filmmakers, I entreat you.

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2 thoughts on “Romantic Movies as Couples’ Therapy?

  1. Great, great writing. You should be writing professionally if you aren’t already. Terrific stuff. I think it’s hilarious that the movie picked was Two for the Road, which I remember as both glib and something of a downer! Perhaps Stolen Kisses would’ve been a better choice? 😀

    • Thank you for the compliment! Professional is the plan, and this site is intended as a portfolio of sorts.

      When it comes to this sort of investigation and inquiry, I imagine the more complicated the dynamics in the film, the better. So Stolen Kisses would be a great example. Unfortunately, I suppose a French film from the 60s might be a tough sell on most modern North American audiences, even if it is Truffaut, and a sequel to 400 Blows.

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