Movie fans connecting over a shared appreciation of their fave films. Bookworms bonding on Goodreads. Is this the wholesome future of dating we all need?
To watch a romantic-comedy is to yearn deeply for movie-worthy love – to find the Harry to your Sally, the Patrick to your Kat, the Cher to your Josh (incest notwithstanding). To subsequently open a dating app is to quickly realise that you may have to sift through a lot of unappealing side-characters before you find someone who radiates the cinematic charm of our favourite protagonists. But for young movie lovers tired of the endless scrolling and unwanted dick pics of Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, there’s another option: write a clever review of a film, romantic or not, and catch a kindred spirit’s attention.
That’s just what Erica, a 27-year-old account executive working in finance, and Ben, a 26-year-old documentarian, did, when they found love on Letterboxd – an increasingly popular film logging website – through sharing reviews of the David Fincher-directed Mank. Each partner gave the film a perfect score; the rating-stars aligned and they got chatting.
Forget dating appsfind love on niche cultural interest sites
As author Carl Wilson writes in his book, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, “taste is a means of distinguishing ourselves from others, the pursuit of distinction”. The pursuit of distinction can be lonely and individualistic, though. It is shinier and magnetic when shared with others; think the infamous elevator scene in (500) Days of Summer or Natalie Portman introducing Zach Braff to The Shins in Garden State. Unfortunately, trying to curate a dating profile can feel clinical and somewhat performative (you can connect your Spotify account to your Tinder profile, sure, but your top songs are placed underneath hand-picked self-portraits). Niche interest sites, on the other hand, like Letterboxd, Goodreads or even your favourite subreddit, have an organic sensibility about them – the focus is on your thoughts and passions rather than physical appearance.
“There’s no way to look across the bar and know [someone’s] opinion on the Kill Bill films,” Erica explains over Zoom from her home in Chicago. Despite the fact that there are about 900 miles between her and Ben, who is based in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, the power of a cinematic love language prevails. “She joked that 20 years ago, we would have to meet in a Blockbuster,” says Ben.
Letterboxd stays true to an analog spirit – it does not, for instance, even have personal messaging functionality. Users are literally left to their own devices, in the hopes that their crush has a linked Twitter account or email address in their bio. The effort (okay, sleuthing) required to contact an internet crush may actually be proof of more genuine intentions. Erica found Ben’s email after he wrote a “Muppets Great Gatsby” script that went viral (as one does), and after several phone calls and video chats, she flew out to New Orleans to meet him. The relationship blossomed rapidly. Within weeks, Ben had visited Erica in Chicago and they had met each other’s families. Their days were filled with movie marathons and deep conversations, skipping the small-talk for something immediately cosmic.
While Letterboxd Editor-In-Chief Gemma Gracewood says there are no plans to implement a private messaging feature to facilitate more love stories like Erica and Ben’s – citing the design expense and threat to its community-informed ethos – she trusts that if users want to contact each other, they will find a way. “The idea is to get people to write reviews and follow each other,” Gemma explains. “It’s a conversation about movies and whatever else you might like to talk about that’s relevant. The minute that goes private, it stops being this shared community and becomes something quite different.”