Various movie genres vaguely relate to the social distancing being practiced right now, including the “last man on Earth” (and it’s almost always been men) category. Indeed, Richard Matheson’s sci-fi novel “I Am Legend” has been adapted three times, with Vincent Price (“The Last Man on Earth”), Charlton Heston (“Omega Man”) and Will Smith (the original title).
Those kinds of movies, however, can be a little stressful, whereas hopeless romance — and the notion of two people drawn to each other but for some extraordinary reason kept apart — might be one of the better escapes.
in terms of romance, forced separation or distance has become a staple of young-adult fiction, some of which has already been turned into movies. Usually, it’s an illness that prevents the lovers from being together, or even touching, a conceit fraught with various metaphorical aspects.
While there has been an increase in such titles, the examples go back decades. Here are just a few.
Pushing Daisies (2007-09)
Producer Bryan Fuller’s decidedly quirky ABC series (which is available on CW Seed) only lasted a few seasons, but it remains among those little gems that got away.
Lee Pace plays Ned, a piemaker whose touch can bring people back to life for a few moments, with the disclaimer that he must touch them again, at which point they stay dead forever.
He breaks that rule because of Chuck (Anna Friel), but having kept her alive, can never touch her. Funny, dark and wildly romantic, the show included a crime-solving procedural element that wasn’t up to the romance, but it’s well worth watching if only for the chemistry of the leads, and the creative ways they found to interact, like holding hands through thick gloves or beekeeper suits.
Five Feet Apart (2019)
Naturally, they gradually fall in love, finding a way, in essence, to steal back that extra foot. Directed by “Jane the Virgin’s” Justin Baldoni, it’s inspired by a documentary he produced profiling young people with the illness.
“The Lake House” (2006)
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves aren’t speeding this time, but rather falling in love via letters they leave each other — the only way they can interact, living as they are in the same lake house, only two years apart. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott described it as a “wonderfully illogical time-travel romance,” which is about right.
“The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” (1976)
Loosely inspired by the true story of a boy born with major immune deficiencies, this made-for-TV movie stars a pre-“Saturday Night Fever” John Travolta as the youth of the title, and Glynnis O’Connor as the girl next door with whom he falls in love. Famously hokey, it was spoofed a quarter-century later by “Bubble Boy,” a dark satire featuring a very young Jake Gyllenhaal.
“Everything, Everything” (2017)
Amandla Stenberg plays 18-year-old Maddy, who is unable to leave the protective environment of her house due to her condition. And yes, she forges a relationship with the boy next door (Nick Robinson), who has access to tools (like text messages) that the boy in the plastic bubble could only imagine.
“The Twilight Zone” (1959-64)
While not directly on point, some of the best episodes of Rod Serling’s sci-fi anthology were lushly romantic, and in terms of unusual tests for couples, loosely apply.
Of those, two — both written by Serling — particularly stand out: “The Long Morrow” (1964), featuring Robert Lansing as an astronaut who has the terrible timing to fall in love with a woman (Mariette Hartley) right before he embarks on a voyage that will keep him away for decades; and “The Trade-Ins” (1962), starring Joseph Schildkraut and Alma Platt as a devoted old couple who — in their future — can buy healthy new bodies to replace their failing ones, but who only have enough money for one.