Culture Trip: Everything you need to feel the love in Week Four

Roses are red, violets are blue, get gassed because we’re bringing another culture trip to you!

Love is in the air. Week 4 is the week of Valentine’s Day. For all you newly-college-married freshers, this would normally mean your wedding formal, and for the older years whose college marriages are growing stale, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to reinvigorate the marriage with a bit of true romance – surprise chocolate in the pidge, a mysterious-but-obvious bouquet of flowers and showering them with compliments, all the good stuff (hint hint college husband…).

This year, wedding formals are most definitely not happening, and many us are sadly separated from our college spouses. So, consider this week’s culture picks an opportunity to connect with your loved ones from afar, either through a cute Netflix party of our film pick, a wholesome book club night or a cultured theatre from home sesh.

Book: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver (1981)

Image credit: Author’s own photo

American short story writer Raymond Carver’s second collection, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” is all about love (shocker) in its various forms, exploring intimacy, family and romance. It is written in Carver’s trademark minimalist style, which means very short stories, perfect for the busy Cambridge student. I’m going to pretend I’ve included this book because it is highly topical for Valentine’s week, rather than because I’m studying it for my dissertation and writing a Tab article about it somehow feels like a justified replacement for actually writing the diss (…).

Film: Malcolm & Marie (2021)

Image credit: Author’s own screenshot via Youtube

A brand spanking new film which has only graced our Netflix accounts this February, ‘Malcolm & Marie’ is, according to the trailer, not a ‘love story’ but rather a ‘story of love’. Personally I’m a little confused as to the difference but there we go. Either way, Sam Levinson’s stunning new film starring Zendaya and John David Washington takes place entirely in one house over a few hours, as Malcolm and Marie return from an afterparty for the premiere of Malcolm’s new film and things get heated (in more than one way).

It is shot beautifully, making use of windows, mirrors and tricks of light, and is the perfect film to get you in the Valentine’s Day spirit. Maybe not one to watch with the college spouse if you’re looking for some soppy lovey dovey vibes though, as a great deal of the film is taken up by arguing. Arguing and mac and cheese. That’s all I’ll say.

TV series: Brothers & Sisters (2006)

Image credit: Author’s own screenshot via Youtube

Old but gold, “Brothers and Sisters” follows the lives of the Walker family, after the sudden death of the family patriarch, William (not a spoiler don’t worry, literally happens in the first five minutes of the pilot). Initially focusing on Nora, the widow he left behind, it follows themes of love, marriage, loyalty and secrecy. And there’s a lot of wine. Perhaps not strictly a Valentine’s Day themed show, it nonetheless explores marriage in its various forms, and ways in which this can be tested, as well as – of course – the importance of familial love. This show is a real heart-warmer, and there are a whole six series, so lots of procrastination material. I highly recommend!

Album: Collapsed in Sunbeams, Arlo Parks (2021)

Image credit: Author’s own screenshot via Spotify

“You shouldn’t be afraid to cry in front of me,” Parks tells us in the opening track to her soothing and sunny debut album “Collapsed in Sunbeams”, before taking us on a forty-minute journey which will make you feel all warm and fuzzy. I honestly feel that this album is exactly what we all need right now – it’s full of positive affirmations – “You’re not alone like you think you are” Parks reminds us in “Hope” – mingling with a floaty keyboard backing in light trip-hop tracks, which just makes you feel so zen.

Several of the tracks are about love, making this album perfect for our Week Four pick, but traditional tropes are inverted: in “Eugene” Parks sings about falling for her straight best friend in a painful instance of unrequited love, while “Green Eyes” focuses on a relationship which seems to be healthy and happy, but ends after just two months due to fears of homophobic judgement from strangers. My personal favourite track is “Black Dog” which is about trying to help someone in the middle of a mental health crisis, a song full of acts of love from one person to another who they are terrified of losing. I’ll stop rambling now, but just now that this album is an absolute MUST-listen this week.

Theatre: Julie (National Theatre Live, 2020-21)

Image credit: Author’s own screenshot via Youtube

Carrie Cracknell directs this stunning adaptation by Polly Stenham of August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie.” Starring Vanessa Kirby and Eric Kofi Abrefa, among others, the play takes place during Julie’s wild birthday party. Power games are played, love is declared and taken back and futures begin to crumble in this high-energy, electrifying performance. “Julie” asks the difficult questions: what role does class have to play in love and friendship? How might privilege blind people to their own actions? What power does sex hold in tearing apart years of history?

This production is available to rent and watch from home here.

And if you’re feeling lonely this V-day…

Online exhibition: Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul (RA Virtual Tour)

Image credit: Author’s own screenshot via Youtube

Valentine’s might be all fun and games for those of us in relationships, but for the rest of us it can be pretty darned lonely. But there’s nothing wrong with that! Tracey Emin and Edvard Munch’s gorgeous artwork on virtual (and free!) display on the Royal Academy website at the moment is the perfect opportunity for a date with yourself. It’s a reminder that suffering from a ‘loneliness of the soul’ doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Emin selected eighteen of Munch’s artworks to place in conversation with her own, in a unique and fascinating display which you should definitely check out.

That concludes our culture picks of the week. So whether you’re preparing for a romantic date night with a loved one or college spouse, or stocking up on the ice cream and chocolate for a bit of me time this weekend, I hope there’s something here that can keep you busy! Good luck for Week Four guys, and we will see you next week!

Feature image credit: Charissa Cheong

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