The grand gesture can be a popular moment in a love story but it doesn’t define the romance. The gesture is not about the relationship as much as it it’s about the character taking the action. They’re risking failure, rejection and humiliation as they try to make up for their past mistakes.
A grand gesture might be the heroine running to the airport to stop her lover from boarding a plane and leaving her forever. The big romantic moment could be at the beginning of the relationship as the protagonist serenades a potential mate with a love song. It usually happens at the end of the story when the hero grovels for forgiveness.
Those acts are memorable but how much impact does it have on the relationship?
The smaller romantic moments have more power. These quiet acts are often consistent and non-verbal. Instead of a last-ditch performance, the smaller moments build upon each other. A grand romantic gesture can be an anomaly in the relationship while the thoughtful acts shape how the couple connects.
Here are two examples in film and television:
The reassuring touch in The Old Guard
The sci-fi / fantasy action-adventure film is about a group of immortal warriors fighting injustices. They have outlived their loved ones and feel a disconnection from the world they protect. Are they good guys or bad guys? As they explain, it depends on the century.
Joe and Nicky, two members of the team, have been in love for millennia. However, they first met in the Middle Ages as enemies during the Crusades. They have killed each other multiple times but now they are fiercely committed to each other.
Obviously, we need a movie just about these two!
A scene that is widely shared online—quite possibly the most popular moment from this action film—is not a fight sequence. It’s when Joe and Nicky have been captured. One of the captors asks Joe if Nicky is his boyfriend.
This declaration of love is everything for fans of the movie. The speech explains the pride, depth and significance of the relationship. While it’s always good for Nicky to hear those words from the love of his life, his teasing response suggests that he’s heard them countless times.
A more romantic moment occurred a few scenes later when Joe gets hurt. Even though he heals rapidly, he’s in pain. Joe and Nicky are defenseless and surrounded by the enemy. So they reach out the only way they can.
That brief touch signals a few things about their relationship. First, this is a couple that needs to touch and will find a way even when they are restrained. Second, they are so in synch with each other as they seek comfort. (Being together for centuries will do that!)
Joe and Nicky are more than passionate and romantic lovers. Their love doesn’t just endure; it continues to grow. They’re always communicating through a look or a touch. This level of intimacy excludes everyone around them—even their own team members—as they focus on what matters most.
The coffee ritual in Castle
In this police procedural television show, Richard Castle is a mystery writer who follows Detective Kate Beckett and observes her solving cases for the New York Police Department. At first, Beckett is Castle’s muse but he eventually joins her team as a consultant.
Castle is a rich playboy and a famous writer who flirts and woos Kate. He knows how to use his charm and his words, but there one thing he does that demonstrates his care and attention: Beckett’s morning coffee.
Although Castle bought a fancy coffee machine for the precinct, he shows up every day with coffee for Beckett and himself. The ritual is consistent, non-verbal, and exclusively for the two of them.
There are many moments in the relationship that are expressed through a coffee cup. Like the time Castle’s romantic rival brings Beckett coffee before Castle arrived. (Will Beckett accept it?) Or the time Castle stops bringing Beckett coffee because she’s dating someone else. And once Castle and Beckett consummate the relationship, the next morning she brings him coffee in bed.
But why did Castle start bringing Beckett coffee ever day?
That’s why. Does it really need to be said? Nah.
The next time you read a romance novel or watch a romantic film, take note of the smaller romantic moments. Chances are they shaped the love story more than the memorable grand gesture.
Want more? Here’s a look into two story elements that are often found in romance books.