And I Thought I Hated Rom-Coms…


‘Pretty Woman?’ I’d rather have 90 minutes of kidney dialysis than sit through that once more. ‘Notting Hill’? Pull my teeth out with rusty pliers, just don’t make me see it again.

It’s safe to say that rom-coms and I don’t get on, from the first klutzy meet-cute to the final airport dash and the fateful kiss that chains them together after an hour and a half of dithering (or ‘Delayed Fuck’, as it was known in the Doris Day-Rock Hudson era) I’m counting down the seconds until I can make a run for it. Being trapped with a date at a romantic movie turned me into the cat that gets the streak of paint down its back, trying to get away from Pepe Le Pew. It’s the wedding clichés, the blondes, the black friend, the gay friend, the cheeky fat friend, the dinner party, the betrayal, the parents, the clinch.

To be fair, I enjoyed ‘When Harry Met Sally’ because it was smarter and sharper. But Hollywood decided that rom-coms should be aimed exclusively at females a long time ago, although there were a few excellent outsiders; ‘Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss’, ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, ’20 Centimetres’, ‘Perfect Strangers’, ‘The Big Sick’, and ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain’ (retitled ‘Amelie’ for the US).

My brother has always insisted that there should be a male-oriented culinary book called ‘Cooking For Engineers’ because he would immediately buy it, and the same could apply to romantic movies. So when I discovered that a film called ‘The Laws of Thermodynamics’ was a rom-com masquerading as a science documentary, I thought I’d give it a go.

This is where Netflix does something good; although it excludes theatrical distribution of its films, it also picks up series and movies from Europe because they’re cheap and can be subtitled at minimal cost. And so we arrive at this utterly barmy Spanish romantic comedy in which four people collide (literally) and fall out/ fall in love. Or do they? Because analysing them, a team of scientists and physicists explain Einstein theory and in particular the Second Law of Thermodynamics in order to illustrate why relationships fail.

The male mentality is particularly fun here, because the men are simultaneously modern and old school; one serial womaniser manages to injure himself at a gay pride event, and both men and women realise they are being graded by their looks, not their intellect.

It’s always fun watching movies set in neighbourhoods you recognise, and this is filmed in my street, literally next door to my apartment, which makes it slightly eerie to watch at home. (Although a few months ago I saw a really creepy horror film which was also shot here, and that was more worrying.)

‘Thermo’ is serious science, however, not just a cute film technique. A physics nerd falls for a supermodel knowing that science is against him every step of the way, and academics show us why. I’m reminded of ‘The Oxford Murders’, Alex de la Iglesias’s underrated mystery which reveals how laws of mathematics affect human behaviour.

The film received industry reviews only and was not released in the UK or US as far as I can see. Variety couldn’t understand it at all, and suggested cutting all of the physics parts out to ‘improve’ it. It’s interesting to note how many people post comments on Amazon complaining that ‘foreign’ films (ie. films from anywhere in the world except Hollywood) have words on screen!

Which is how Hollywood keeps its product so generic and homogenous. At least now we have Netflix to level the playing field a little – you’ll find the good stuff at the very bottom of its EPG.

13 comments on “And I Thought I Hated Rom-Coms…”

  1. Ken Mann says:

    Actually there is a cookery book aimed at engineers – it is published by O’Reilly who specialise in software manuals.

  2. DC says:

    Would that be the coffee orientated Java Cookbook or the sickly sweet Banana Pi Cookbook?

    There is the Engineer’s Cookbook (available on Kindle) which, I assume, takes the poor bemused nerd through the culinary process in a reassuringly complex and technical way.

    The true nerd might prefer the Star Trek cookbook, if you’re thinking of a present.

  3. DC says:

    Should have said that the latter two are actually cookery books.

  4. Fiona says:

    (500) Days of Summer is a good one.

    Shaun of the Dead? Zomromcom!

  5. Peter Tromans says:

    By some coincidence I stated reading Pippard’s book on thermodynamics last week. Cut the romance and it sounds exactly my sort of film. The relationship between relativity and the second law might be interesting.

    Real engineers and physicists, I exclude respectfully computer and IT people, code in Fortran, not java and the like.

    Getting back to books, one of my old lecturers expressed bafflement by titles like ‘… for ..
    some group’. I’m sure he appreciated ‘Electronics for Dogs’.

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    What was the horror film?

    Muriel’s Wedding did pull off a strong turnaround, in short be careful who laugh at in the film. The problem with a number of rom coms is they are not funny, just light romance films, I blame films like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.


  7. Brooke says:

    What Peter T said. The “romance” as described sounds insulting to scientists.
    Fortran…now there’s a language I haven’t seen in a long time. I thought we were all py and C++.

  8. admin says:

    I think the film’s stumbling block to finding the right audience was marrying the intelligence of scientific analysis to the dumbness of the romcom. I found it delightful but have friends who hated it.

  9. Brooke says:

    Did your friends hate the film’s scientific analysis, the rom-com or both? If the first, I’m going to be really depressed despite beautiful autumn weather and having several new pairs of brightly colored socks.

  10. Rich says:

    That Pepe Le Pew cartoon is one of my all time favourites – but nobody I’ve ever mentioned it to seems to have any idea what it is or have ever seen it. I love it. For some reason I really empathised with the cat.

  11. Peter Tromans says:

    …. at the same time, scientists/engineers/mathematicians are as driven by emotion and passion and beauty as any group, possibly more so. As such, any book or film that features them in place of the usual medic/lawyer/writer/antiquarian… should be appreciated. Perhaps, the fundamental problem with rom-com, and the reason it clashes with thermodynamics, is that it trivialises everything, which I guess was Chris’s original point.

  12. Ian Luck says:

    The Vincent Price cookbook, ‘Cooking Price Wise’ was excellent.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    I think you’re right, Peter.
    Rich, that is one of my all-time favourites. Pepe comes on so strong and the look of terror on the cat’s face is wonderful. We all identify with the cat, the poor soul. Oh, I really want to see it again.

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