Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! 💕
Confession: rom-com or romance dramas (unless they’re Jane Austen, natch) are not exactly my go-to genres, I usually opt for sci-fi, spy thrillers, non-romantic dramas, or comedies. But this past weekend my hubby and I were in the mood for something romantic so we browsed all our streaming channels to see if there was a romantic movie worth watching. We initially considered watching the newly-released rom-coms, Shotgun Wedding & Your Place Or Mine, but the Rotten Tomatoes scores aren’t exactly encouraging.
Thankfully I remembered one starring two beautiful + talented Black actors from 2020 I’ve been wanting to watch and we both absolutely loved it! The next day I ended up seeing another one that’s been on my to-watch list for a while and I also fell in love with it! Both films have non-white actors that happen to be directed by women, so I thought I’d put together a small list of romantic dramas from the past two decades, starring actors of color + directed by female directors. All of these are available to stream + they’re well worth staying in for!
The Photograph (2020)
Streaming on Freeve
Directed by: Stella Meghie
A series of intertwining love stories set in the past and in the present.
I’m still kicking myself that I missed seeing this on the big screen two Valentines ago. It’s such a beautifully-shot film with almost an ethereal feel to it, which is fitting given the title. I’ve been a fan of LaKeith Stanfield for some time but have never seen him in a romance before… meanwhile, this is my first intro to the luminous Issa Rae who just absolutely glows with her beaming smile.
I swoon over their burgeoning romance but what’s even more admirable is that the parallel love story of Rae’s mother told in flashback is equally beguiling. Chanté Adams and Y’lan Noel are quite fetching together, so it’s like getting TWO beautiful love stories in one movie. I absolutely adore this film, definitely one not to be missed!!
India Sweets & Spices (2021)
Streaming on Hulu
Directed by: Geeta Malik
When college freshman Alia returns home for the summer, she discovers secrets and lies in her parents’ past that make her question everything she thought she knew about her family.
I actually saw the trailer not long after I watched Uncharted, so I immediately recognized Sophia Ali who was terrific in an action role. She’s got that spunky vibe and likable quality about her that I’m immediately drawn to. It’s as much a romance as it is a family drama, focusing on the mother-daughter relationship. Veteran Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala is lovely and I love her story arc here that goes beyond a typical housewife.
Malik’s direction is energetic and as vibrant as the sumptuous visuals. The movie is filled with rich, colorful costumes one expects from a movie about Indian families. It certainly has that Crazy Rich Asians vibes given the main family and their friends are quite affluent, but there are some unexpected twists and surprises thrown in that made this one quite memorable.
Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Streaming on Netflix
Directed by: Nahnatchka Khan
Everyone assumed that Sasha and Marcus would wind up together, except for Sasha and Marcus. Reconnecting after 15 years, the two start to wonder–maybe?
This movie is such a gem and wonderfully rewatchable thanks to the charisma of its leads Ali Wong and Randall Park who are delightfully funny and adorable! Wong’s Sasha is a famous restauranteur in San Francisco while Park’s Marcus is an electrician working with his dad… well, sparks still fly between these former childhood pals. I love all the supporting cast too, especially James Saito as Marcus’ dad and Daniel Dae Kim as Sasha’s hunky boyfriend. I know most people might check this out for Keanu Reeves‘ hilarious cameo, but this movie is immensely watchable even without that bit.
Read my full review »
Sophie & the Rising Sun (2017)
Streaming on Amazon Prime
Directed by: Maggie Greenwald
Autumn of 1941 in Salty Creek, a fishing village in South Carolina, two interracial lovers are swept up in the tides of history.
This movie is so under-the-radar but it’s a beautiful, bittersweet love story during wartime. While WWII was ravaging Europe and racism still permeates the South, a wounded stranger suddenly turns up in a small town and becomes the talk of the town. The story unfolds slowly but in a captivating way, starting with an unexpected friendship between Mrs. Morrison (Margo Martindale, always wonderful in everything she’s in), a benevolent widow who takes in Mr. Ohta (Takashi Yamaguchi) who ends up being her gardener.
The blossoming romance between Ohta and a lonely young woman, Sophie (Julianne Nicholson) whom he shares an artistic passion is beautifully realized. I love that writer/director Maggie Greenwald doesn’t shy away from depicting a passionate interracial affair… the love scenes are tender and moving, filled with such longing between two people who’ve been repressed sexually and emotionally for so long.
In addition to the romance, it’s also a love and reunion story between two childhood friends separated by bigotry and racism of that time. I love Lorraine Toussaint as Salome and I’d think her character deserves her own story told.
Beyond The Lights (2014)
Streaming on Netflix
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.
I’m such a huge fan of writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood (GPB for short) whose recent epic historical drama The Woman King was criminally overlooked at the Oscars. Most people have likely seen Love & Basketball, which I finally saw last year which beautifully fuses sports and romance. In Beyond The Lights, GPB skillfully blends music and romance, with the stunning and oh-so-talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw as pop star Noni who meets an unlikely ally and love when on the brink of self-destruction.
Mbatha-Raw has such an amazing star quality, I hope to see her in more leading roles on the big screen. I’m a huge fan of Minnie Driver so it’s great to see her as Noni’s ruthlessly-driven mother and Nate Parker has a lovely presence as the cop who falls for Noni. I love the soundtrack, especially the song Blackbird. Mbatha-Raw proved to be a good singer too as she sang all of her own songs for this movie.
Read my full review »
Hope you like my recommendations! Which of these movies have you seen?
10 thoughts on “Five Romantic Dramas directed by women with POC leads worth staying in for on Valentine’s Week”
Nice list! I’ve only seen The Photograph, I’ll have to check out the others.
The Photograph is such a beautiful movie, glad you’ve seen it but yes definitely check out the rest!
This isn’t the genre that I watch often so the only movie from this list that I’ve seen is Always Be My Maybe. I’ve never heard of the other ones on the list.
Glad you’ve seen Always Be My Maybe, it’s such a fun movie! I highly recommend The Photograph despite dramas not being your genre, Ted, perhaps next time you’re looking for something romantic while you’re on a date? 😉
Beyond the Lights is the film that I really want to see despite the presences of both Nate Parker and MGK as I hope to see The Woman King later this month on Netflix. BTW, seen the new teaser for Ted Lasso?
Beyond the Lights is so good!! Watch it for miss Gugu who’s absolutely lovely.
Ooooh you’ll enjoy The Woman King!! And yes, I did see the new Ted Lasso teaser, can’t wait!
P.S. Apple TV is on fire!! I’m about to post a trailer for their upcoming limited series with a star-studded cast.
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