It’s not love, actually

Diane Lane jumps into a lake and frantically swims across to John Cusack, who is sitting in a rowing boat, looking a little bewildered. But it’s John Cusack in all his crumpled, unconventionally handsome glory- who wouldn’t jump in a lake to plead for another chance?

‘Must Love Dogs’ – with the ending described above (apologies if you were thinking of watching it over the weekend) is just another predictable romantic comedy. But such things are a comfort to watch, in pyjamas, on one’s own. The characters have a hard time, feel lonely and doubt they will ever find love and happiness, but in the end it all works out and all loose ends are tied.

If only things were as simple in real life. Most of us only really want to find ‘the one’. Yes, some people are happy to fly solo or just get no-strings sex when they are feeling a little frisky and to those people, I say ‘good for you and good luck’. But while I have pretended to be like this over the years, I am actually a squishy mess on the inside.

I am a middle-aged single mum who just wants to find her soul mate, true love, if this is not a mythical beast. But, unlike Diane Lane in the movie, a divorced 40-year-old, who goes on a string of disastrous dates, yet has Cusack yearning for her affections, I have no gorgeous crumpled guy waiting in the wings.

But this is why many of us love to watch these films, no matter how predictable or unrealistic their plots are. Yes, the characters usually go through a period of misery or solitude – Jennifer Aniston in ‘The Switch’ goes away for seven years, before coming back to New York and realising Jason Bateman is ‘the one.’ But the fact that they all get their true love in the end gives us this warm, cosy feeling.

It’s nothing like real life, but still it gives us an artificial feeling of hope. Even though we know we won’t meet the man of our dreams by denting his car in Asda car park, or through initially arguing with that new guy at work, then suddenly realising you are in love, a part of our brain lets us think that we all find true love in the end.

Wouldn’t it be great to have someone you secretly fancy run after you at passport control at the airport, saying “don’t get on that plane” or to dash down/up the stairs while you take the lift to say “please don’t go – I love you”? Even Justin Timberlake (in ‘Friends with Benefits’) organising a ‘flash mob’ dance routine in Grand Central Station, to show his undying love for Mila Kunis, would suffice.

Yes, unfortunately, people like me who never figured out how to get the whole love thing right, are probably more addicted to these movies than most. We find them the audio-visual equivalent to a large mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. But we are also observing very closely in case they somehow hold the key, the secret code to where we are going wrong in our own lives.

Right, then – bottle of wine – check, large bag of crisps – check, box of tissues – check, phone on silent – check. I fancy ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ tonight.