My Photo


Stats & Etc.

  • All written content (c) 2005-2021 Billy Mernit, all rights reserved.

« Rom-Com Truisms #7 | Main | Second Chances »



I don't necessarily believe in The One (life just isn't that neat and tidy), but I do believe in The Right One At The Right Time.

Also - I'd love to hear what you think about the role most RomComs have played in helping us all believe that Love in linear. I don't believe it is, and I certainly don't think it's black and white. It's a billion shades of grey - but that wouldn't make a very entertaining movie.

Thus my love/hate relationship with the genre: I really want to believe in it, but I just can't. I can be entertained by good RomComs, but I'm not sure I can ever trust them.


For an adventure/romance, how about Out of Sight? Here's the trunk scene where Clooney's character asks, "What if we met under different circumstances?":

My wife and I joke we'd be the world's worst rom-com - no conflict, almost laughably so. But we are ridiculously happy and do place some significance on the fact that we had three very different groups of mutual friends for a number of years before we ever met. I don't know that it was inevitable, but I'm glad it didn't happen until we were both grown up enough not to look for reasons to screw it up.


Just to get back to a previous blog, mentioned that Shane spoke for 1 1/2 hours at your class..... so that means he answered way more questions than just the fear question.... do you still have notes of what else he talked about? That could be like 10 blogs right there. He's like one of the greatest writers ever.


J: Aha! You've just articulated some of the basic themes of this... thing I'm writing, where the "real life vs. screen life" of it all is a major issue. So in lieu of a time machine that would enable us to order you a copy of the yet-unfinished book on Amazon (and boy, what I wouldn't give for one of THOSE), I'll merely say... Romantic Comedy: Threat or Menace? is one side of the equation (i.e. yeah, faux-linearity is one of the prevalent myths in the genre that can really trip up impressionable real-world humans), whereas on the other hand, love really can be an answer, of sorts, and it doesn't hurt to be reminded of that.

Shananaomi: Seems to me that being the world's worst rom-com is a considerable achievement, oh lucky man. The interlocking circle of friends thing is mightily intriguing, though, and reminds me of my own marriage: often at social events we run into people who we both know, independently of each other; it's funny and kind of a head-scratch, cosmically speaking (though a sociologist would have the stats that make it seem perfectly understandable). Meanwhile, I've always liked the aptly named OUT OF SIGHT.

Eric: One of my former students - the guy who got Shane to come for his visit - undoubtedly has said notes. I'll try to remember to tap him for same.

People like to see these fantasies cause they know they don't exist... Once they get to the alter, movie is over... even the silly Marley movie which takes us into their marriage (but not really) these two are still madly in love, the wife (aniston) takes back seat so hubby can pursue his dreams...the depiction of life the 3 kids, low salary (a column??) is so unrealistic, thus why people need to escape... I wrote a script called After The Honeymoon HA.... "that's an indie movie" It's pretty self explanatory, escapism, like the comic book movies, the raunchy male bonding (or female) all the same... Even Date Night was SO out of touch with reality, but it was fun.... that is what people want, not to see reality...

Timothy Miller

I'm really glad you mentioned Serendipity. A lot of people dismiss this movie, but I think it's brilliant, almost a meta-romcom in that it takes the most tired cliche of the romcom, what most writers consider it's weakness -- at the end, these two WILL BE together -- and embraces it, making it the story's strength. It's a one-in-a-million chance that they'll ever see each other again, with every obstacle in the way, but since we know they WILL be together, we can concentrate on these two characters and why they SHOULD be together.

In many ways, A Very Long Engagement is the same story, though it might more properly be classed as a romance than a romcom.


Hi Rhonda! Yes, absolutely, of course it's escapism - which is true of nearly all genre movies. But the escapist movies that really strike a chord with an audience do so because they're telling a specific story, supporting a particular belief, and that's what I'm chasing after here - trying to define what it is about the "There's only one special someone for you in the world and all you need to do is find them" myth that seems to resonate (despite reality!) so strongly.

Welcome Mr. Tim: Innnn-teresting, the meta angle, and I think you're right about this One in particular; the fun is all in the game, which you either enjoy... or you change the channel.

Lisa Rothstein

My favorite rom-coms -- even the traditional ones --are not so much about The One as about The Story. How they met, why it didn't work at first, what happened to finally make it work, all the little details that take on the patina of myth as they are repeated. That's why my favorite rom-com of all time is When Harry Met Sally. I especially love the "documentary" couples (played by actors playing real people)telling their how-they-met stories -- mundane to us but fascinating and seemingly magical to them. As you point out it's those "strange paths" that fascinate us -- the opening chapter of what will be come a shared history, the first tale in the mythology of a new tribe, the couple. And it's also the path of a relationship like Harry and Sally's, not the blinding flash of love at first sight but the slow, flickering pilot light of faithful friendship, that finally allows each to develop into each other's One.
So many (including my manager) say the rom-com is essentially dead, but I never get tired of these stories. I hope we never stop making them!

Bob Dolman

In discussions about romantic comedy, romantic gets more air time than comedy. But it's the comedy that drives the genre more than romance because comedy IS the genre--in the old Greek sense of the two main kinds of narratives, comedy and tragedy. Comedy urges toward freedom and a future society. Get the old farts out of the way and let the new kids build a new social order. Usually in the early comedies this was symbolized by two people falling in love and overcoming their parents or a king or some other blocking figure, then getting married. The wedding dance was a splash of fertility and springtime. That's deep in each of us, that primal urge, and comedy gives it form, gives it narrative direction. It isn't wish fulfillment, it's Nature, the instinctive trust all creatures have when they start chirping and howling in the morning: the day is ahead and all our appetites are going to be satisfied! You can see how this gets warped into believing in soulmates and kindred spirits. The genre is guiding us in that direction: guy plus girl equals hope. Tragedy comes along and says, Oh really?


In the One story as in real life, either the protagonist believes in the idea of the One, or an unromantic protagonist realises what has happened in retrospect and then goes after the girl in a third act climax. Either way it is a semantic issue, as the narrative moves in only one direction, or there would be no story. What is important to note however is that when we look at rival romantic views, the One vs. the Many for example (or put another way, Monogamy vs. Polygamy, or even Monogamy over a lifetime vs. serial Monogamy) the One story at its core puts forward the idea that one person can be enough for another, and that there’s a perfect someone out there with whom you can have that. It does not give a roadmap of how to get there, or what to do once you’ve found that person, but it does suggest it exists. It is still conceivable in this day and age to believe that a person can partner for life and do it well, but it does seem to be a symptom of modern life that expectations are so low for relationships that a lot of people expect the relationship to end or be subpar, and create a self-fulfilling downfall. Romantics and believers (and even non-believers) in the One story however put themselves out there when it counts, otherwise there would be no story. They may not always win (My Best Friend’s Wedding or 500 Days of Summer for example), but sometimes they do despite massive, and in the case of Serendipity ridiculous, odds. One view therefore is that the One story sets the example not that there’s one soulmate for every person, but rather that one person is enough for you, if you can both reach the conclusion that they are indeed the One – a massive leap of faith for anyone, but one that always gets rewarded in this narrative when both commit to the idea.


Does Just Like Heaven fit your criteria for The One? It definitely involves the fates bringing them together, and their obstacle is in finding a way to be together -- which their love provides since once in love, Ruffalo's character fights for Witherspoon's enough to wake her from a coma.

While I know in my head that there's no doubt more than One out there for anyone, the romantic (and romantic comedy-lover) in me doesn't want to debunk or deconstruct this kind of story. I suppose I want to hang onto it because The One means not only that there's a special someone out there for me, but also that I am uniquely special to someone. It's a happy thought, even if it's impractical on a number of levels!

I was wondering, too, whether The One might be a metaphor for loving and accepting like a soulmate the person you're really going to spend the rest of your life with -- yourself. Bit of a stretch?


Lisa: Have you ever considered doing some, um, writing? ;-> Great phraseology in there (I'm already envisioning ways to use some of it, e.g. Harry Potter and the Flickering Pilot Light of Faithful Friendship). Yes, I'm a fan of The Story, of course, and you've got me musing on what kind of sub-genre WHEN HENRY represents: it's the one where two people who do know each other nonetheless take years (even decades) to finally reach each other romantically - the forthcoming ONE DAY (Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess) is one of these. Subject for upcoming post, no doubt.

Mr. Bob: Thank you for providing the larger historical context - which is also evolutionary, I guess: Guy plus girl equals baby (hope). It's the Baby Hope trope! And the soul-mate construct, warped as it seems to be, suggests a religion of the fair and balanced universe; everything WILL work out for me, because somewhere there's the someone who will provide that hopeful future...

MJK, that seems an astute and intriguing analysis, in that it pinpoints faith - a passionate faith - as the key factor in this belief system. And the story does only function if the subtext is a belief that "One can be enough." The more I think about this particular rom-com idea, the more it feels like the Monotheist wing of the genre...

MaryP: Kind of like where you went with this, and I wonder if that idea (The One is You) really is discernible in such One Love movies; as you point out, it's certainly inherent in the equation (i.e. If they're unique for me, I'm unique for them). Meanwhile, it's been a while since I've seen HEAVEN, but you may be right - The movies I'm looking at are ones where there really is only the most minimal interaction (i.e. the getting to know you part) between the leads, and HEAVEN does qualify on the level of, he only knows her as a spirit (and won't get to know the human her till after the fadeout). But in SERENDIPITY and SLEEPLESS (and WONDERLAND) the leads really don't interact "as a couple" at all, for the bulk of the movie, so... hybrid? I'm fence-sitting.

Rob in L.A.

It’s interesting that Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) from “Sleepless in Seattle” is listed as an example of a character who only has “One Love.” Sam is a widower, so he supposedly has two soulmates in his life: his late wife and Annie Reed (Meg Ryan). This raises an intriguing philosophical question: If Sam’s wife hadn’t died, would Annie still be his “One Love”? And what would the answer to this question tell us about the “One Love” philosophy?


Rob: Great Minds... I was musing on exactly this conundrum today. It's the One + Fate matrix that makes the movie undeniably a "One" story, whereas the widower premise makes it a "One After the One" story, which I was planning to point out in a subsequent post. In either version, clearly the old "higher power" deal is at the wheel, so the answer to your last question would depend on just how um, directed and specifically conscious one wants to believe those Powers can be...


This topic reminds me of the old greek myth about soulmates - the one about us originally being two-headed creatures separated by the gods and that we are eternally looking to rejoin our literal and figurative 'other halves' (illustrated well by the 'Origin of Love' scene from Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Im not a classical greek scholar but I think one thing to infer from that myth, and from all its incarnations to present day, is that there exists a lid for every pot... which implies that we are all loveable - no matter how physically disformed or neurotic, etc we are. So if you choose to believe that, then any obstacles to get to that other half (completeness) are external rather than internal, implying that we don't have to change to find fulfillment, it's just the outside world keeping us down. That's usually where the contrivances come in, and ultimately (this might be sort of a stretch) - a belief in God.

The antithesis of this kind of story says we do need to change internally, and I think these stories tend to skew towards the "One After the One" side of the spectrum, and are more likely to be considered 'realistic' or palatable to our modern sensibilities.

Not saying one kind is better than the other.. if one willingly suspends disbelief, both kinds of stories, told well, could be lots of fun.

Karel Segers

In life, love is hard work. In "One Love" movies, it seems to be simple, provided you find the One. I guess herein lies the attraction?

Recently watched THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (romantic but not comedy) and it seems to fall into the One Love category as even the Higher Powers can't change the protagonists' fate.

The Other Guy

I hope you're not going to teach Serendipidity as a successful model of "the one." Here's where philosophy and the medium that evokes emotions do not meet. I remember watching that movie in a theater and the audience groaning and checking out of the story emotionally the second Kate Beckinsdale started with her silly write on a dollar bill bit... Audiences root for the protagonist that struggles and fights for love (success, etc) in spite of what lumps life hands them. They're not going to be sympathetic to a girl who's so silly and stupid that she's going to waste the guy's time and the audience's time by self-sabotaging herself. If it was in fact fate, then why did she and John Cusack spend the entire time investigating, looking for clues.... if it's fate, then they would have found each other on their own without, investigating. (the writer violates his own rules) I kept thinking we wouldn't have to be wasting time on this if she had just giving him the f'ing number in first place. I remember the movie making me more aggravated than Leap Year or the Backup plan...with probably the silliest of all heroines. You could cast any of the greats (even Meg Ryan or Audrey Hepburn and any male star and that movie still would have failed.

As for movies featuring the One, I'm surprised that this movie hasn't been brought up--Only You explores this topic thoroughly. It's about Marisa Tomei desperately looking for that "One" that was predicted....and Robert Downey Jr. pretending to be that one....frustrated that she's so stuck on this prophesy... and (spoiler alert) in fact turns out to be the one... Though not a classic, the movie was kind of cute with terrific performances.... and I thought it explored one of the great rom com staples of thinking your love story has to go a certain way, when it goes in a totally unexpected way.

Casanova also had the One as he underlying assumption...with Casanova not really changing until he finds the One.


Mark: This is very much the way I've come to think about The One, i.e. the somewhat narcissistic "we are naturally lovable as we are" notion, and accordingly in the storytelling, the dependence on external vs. internal obstacles, along with The God Thing - the absolutist dependence on some higher power taking care of the whole situation for us in the end. In other words: What you said.

Kerel: And your comment astutely dovetails with Mark's. I noted the same trope in BUREAU, and here's my take on the rom-com of it all:

Other Guy: Nooooooo, I won't be teaching SERENDIPITY, thanks, for much the same reasons as you suggest. Thanks for citing ONLY YOU, which I need to see again, since it put me to sleep on first viewing - not the movie's fault, and I hugely heart Robert D. - but something to do with that night's quota of mojitos. Clearly, fate and destiny at work, as how otherwise would I have left it off the list and thus gotten to meet your cyber self? (Higher Powers love mojitos, etc. - there's that Marc Klein-ian logic at work again...)

The Other Guy

Well, Billy I suggest you get some nice cheeses and fruit and maybe a favorite drink and enjoy Only You. I watch so many comedies that I never get to watch a decent rom com for the first time on dvd (fresh) and am always delighted when I stumble on something that I may have missed or somehow overlooked. I do like that it's set in an exotic locale...always nice to have it in a place you'd like to visit.

By the way, do you recall what else Shane Black talked about? Was it noteworthy? I think almost every male writer admires Shane Black. I'm upset that I wasn't in that class. Who'd think that Shane Black would make an appearance to a rom com class or any class for that matter. He's like a recluse.


Other Guy: One of my screenwriting students, Eric Pfeiffer, had met Shane at a conference and kept in touch; it was through Eric that Shane agreed to visit us. You aren't the first to pose the "what else?" question. I remember us talking about the essentials - plot, character, dialogue, structure; we discussed KISS KISS BANG BANG... I'm going to get in touch with Eric and track down his notes, and put together another post before long, as there seems to be online interest.

Sorry, insert "together" after "bring a couple"...

Oh, my original post disappeared. Here’s more or less what it said:
Not all stories in which fates conspire to bring a couple together imply that they are therefore each other’s one-and-only soulmate. And while audiences can accept the first scenario because they can apply 20-20 hindsight to their own relationship(s) and see how luck was involved, the idea of “The One” is a much harder sell. Except maybe to Twilight fans.


Mercifully Short: "Not all..." That's true, but generally, the fact that Fate is playing such a major part in the story gives a great deal of weight to the "This is the big one!" subtext of the relationship. Re: Your second point, agreed, though I'd add "romantic fundamentalists" to "Twilight fans" on the short list.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Billy's Books

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2005