This Anti-Romcom Tackles The Biggest Relationship Red Flags in Romance Movies

Romance movies can be a blast, but are they realistic representations of healthy relationships? More often than not, no. Elisa Kalani and Cazzie David look to clarify some of those unrealistic expectations movies have placed on romance via their feature directorial debut, an “anti-romcom” called I Love You Forever.

Sofia Black-D’Elia leads as Mackenzie, a 25-year-old law student who sticks to brief hookups and “situationships.” However, then she meets Ray Nicholson’s Finn during the ultimate “real life meet-cute.” Does true love really exist? Could Finn be the perfect guy? Mackenzie thinks so — until she starts getting glimpses of his dark side. Ultimately, Mackenzie winds up “trapped in a tumultuous and depleting cycle of emotional abuse, and must confront whether her true love is too good to be true after all.”

In celebration of I Love You Forever’s world premiere at SXSW 2024, Kalani, David and Jon Rudnitsky who plays one of Mackenzie’s two closest friends alongside David, all visited the Collider interview studio to discuss making their movie, and to weigh in on the romance movies that get it right, and the ones that get it wrong.

The Biggest Relationship Red Flags in Most Romance Movies

This Anti-Romcom Tackles The Biggest Relationship Red Flags in Romance Movies

Given there’s a wealth of downright ridiculous relationship expectations set by romance movies, I opted to ask the I Love You Forever team for the ones they were most eager to expose as total bullshit. David began, “I would say most relentless pursuing. Just that we were taught through these movies that if it's a true love story, a man will do anything to be with you, and that's a red flag.”

Kalani was quick to point a finger at The Notebook for committing that exact offense, and then also went on to call out the obsessive behavior in Twilight. “Edward Cullen watching and stalking and all that stuff. We were told that a man should be obsessed with you, you know? And think about nothing else other than you.”

Rudnitsky jumped in with an example of a “sexy thing” that’s actually one giant red flag in a potential partner. “I think also in these movies, the guy's always a fuck-up and that's a sexy thing, a guy who just can't get his life together. Meanwhile, that's actually just a sign of a guy who's probably not gonna be a good long-term possibility.”

The list goes on and on. David added, “We’re really obsessed with the idea of saving someone.” And then Rudnitsky named a biggie, “Running through an airport. You gotta run through an airport, and it's also got to be raining at some point, too.” Kalani’s next example got a big laugh out of yours truly. “They’re always a journalist, which we have a journalist in our movie.” David added, “There's only a few romcom jobs to choose from. You're lucky we didn't make our lead actress a baker.”

Romance Movies That Get Relationships Right

This Anti-Romcom Tackles The Biggest Relationship Red Flags in Romance Movies

The Notebook and Twilight may not feature the most realistic relationships, but there are some movies out there that do. In particular, David highlighted Drake DoremusLike Crazy starring Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin.


“As far as a grounded romance story goes, I really loved the movie Like Crazy. I thought that showed a really true story about people who are in love with its ups and downs. I really liked that movie.”


Another big winner in this respect? “I like Past Lives a lot.” Rudnitsky continued, “Because they're meant for each other, but then they can't be because the realities of life got in the way and I thought that felt realistic.”

This Anti-Romcom Tackles The Biggest Relationship Red Flags in Romance Movies

David and Kalani ultimately delivered an especially sharp and appropriately stress-inducing anti-romcom, but the journey to finishing their first feature wasn’t an easy one.

Kalani went back to the beginning to touch on something that many often consider one of the hardest parts of the filmmaking process — finding financing.


“I feel like everything feels like the toughest thing when it's the thing right in front of you. Just finding someone who believes in the script and is willing to put up money to pay for something, to trust two first-time directors to creatively tell a story that, as good as they may think the script is, letting us create it is a whole other thing, and bring that to life. That seemed like it'd be the hardest thing, but then every day on set, there was a new hard thing, so you never know what's gonna happen.”


Anything can happen when making a movie, so it’s basically inevitable that one’s vision will evolve. Those growing pains proved challenging for David. She explained:


“It felt very much like what I imagine having a child is like. Not in the way where it's like, the movie’s my baby, but how your child does something horribly wrong, but you have to support the child anyway . Like, ‘It’s still our movie. We still love our movie no matter what happened. We still love you.’”


Kalani laughed and added, “We're in an abusive relationship with the movie.” David continued, “No, not to say that we don't love it 100% and support it 100%, but there's things that you don't expect to go wrong that will, and you kind of just have to roll with the punches.”

David and Kalani did indeed roll with the punches in the best possible way because, not only did they emerge with a rock solid first feature, but their actors always felt safe and supported by the directing duo. Rudnitsky explained:


“I feel so comfortable with them. I feel like they're very straightforward, and I really trust them a lot, so I always wanted their approval a lot. I mean, honestly, I would ask for a line reading sometimes. I don't mind that. And comedically, they’re so sharp, so sometimes there would be riffing involved, but then, ‘That's a little much. Let's reel it back a little bit.’ Or, ‘That's good. Say that again. Maybe try this.’ I just felt very safe with them. Both of them.”


Eager to hear more about the making of I Love You Forever? You can catch my full conversation with David, Kalani, and Rudnitsky in the video interview at the top of this article.

I Love You Forever 2024 SXSW Promo Image

I Love You Forever (2024)

A subversive romantic comedy gone wrong that follows a young woman into and out of an emotionally abusive relationship.

Release Date

March 9, 2024


Cazzie David , Elisa Kalani


89 Minutes

Main Genre


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