Lovely Blog Party || Unexpected Endings in Romantic Stories: A Thesis {not really}

*Spoilers for several movies/books/shows follow!*

(Dream with me, folks.)

You're watching Roman Holiday.

You are, as any rational human bean would be, enchanted by the breezy and dynamic pairing of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn as a spontaneous couple.

You're very muchly feeling the black-and-white authenticity of Italian culture that the film portrays.

You are waiting patiently to see when and how the aforementioned b. and d. Peck and Hepburn will "end up together."

You receive a slight scare when the two of them have an emotional (and unduly nuzzle-y: geez, control yourselves, kids) farewell scene, BUT, Peck is about to storm the gates of the palace and surprise Hepburn by revealing his identity as a journalist, and she will fling duty to the wind and flee the embassy with him, using a stray motorcycle as a getaway car.

You're all set.  There he waits behind the security line, and there she appears around the corner.  Any minute now.  Any minute now, she's going to do all that flinging and fleeing.

And then . . .

She doesn't.

She is Quite Clearly Affected, and he appears to be having a few emotions as well, but . . .

No flinging.  No fleeing.

Hepburn turns coolly and disappears behind the corner whence she first appeared, and Peck saunters pensively out through the grandiose marble halls.

And Hepburn doesn't appear in a sudden surprise ending, running to him in raptures.

He just leaves.  She just stays.

So you whisper, "What the what?!"

And yet, somehow, though you may be disappointed, you don't really feel (at least, I didn't) as though the movie ended badly.  'Tis a bittersweet conclusion, to be sure, but you do not feel as if you've been cheated of resolution.

Why is that?  Why do some romantic stories in which the guy and the girl do not categorically and unequivocally end up together work while others don't?

Well, to be totally honest with you . . . I don't know, my friends.  I actually have no real idea of where this exploration will go, but it seemed like a good post idea at the time.  But let's see what we can dig up by way of an answer, shall we?

I believe that, for me, the main thing that causes me to dislike this phenomenon is when a movie (or book, or TV show, or whatever) has a romance in it and then the romance disintegrates (or is not resolved) for no apparent reason.

I can't stand it when filmmakers try to invest the viewer in a couple only to leave that couple hanging with faulty resolution (or none whatsoever) when it doesn't look like anybody has learned anything from the romance.

Don't insert a romance if it goes nowhere and benefits nobody.  If I as the viewer don't learn anything from a couple, however briefly they maintain that status; and if they as the characters don't seem to learn  anything, either; then what was the point?!?!

On the other hand, if you leave a couple unresolved--or, as in Roman Holiday, fairly explicitly leave it as a "they are never going to be together" kind of thing--but you successfully explain to me why that's the case, or why that should be the case, or why it's okay that that's the case, or teach me a valuable lesson through that short-lived romance, then I can be content.

I can also countenance an open-ended, ambiguous ending if it's a situation in which it's open to debate whether the couple should even be (or even is) a couple.  (Think Eliza & Higgins. *coughs*)

Let's test this by examining a few different couples, shall we?

Ann & Joe (Roman Holiday): We've covered this already.

Nola & Print (Broken Trail):  *sigh*  I'm kind of undecided about how these two end.  I think it serves to heighten the gravitas of the movie, obviously; and it highlights the fact that neither is perfect (especially Print).  On the other hand . . . I don't know.  Since I love both of them but am not super super attached to them as a couple, I can at least live with it.  Especially given the very end, with Nola's letter. *sniffle*

Eve & Much (Robin Hood):  Oh, so all you need to completely forget Eve and your promise to her is a glimpse of Kate's pretty face, Much?!  *glares at him* A stern word is needed, young man. A STERN WORD.

(So yeah, I didn't like this.  Though maybe my opinion would change with a re-watch.)

Lizzie & . . . The Stranger?? (Apparently he's not even given a name??  *sigh*  I can't with this movie . . . ) (Dear Frankie):  I've already mentioned this couple a few times, so y'all probably remember that this is one example of this kind of ending that I Strongly Dislike.  Like, seriously, had the makers even heard the term 'closure' before?!  *SPOILERS*  He just walks off into an alley and that's it?!  YOU WANNA RUN THAT BY ME AGAIN?!?!

Really, I'm over it.  It's fine.

Annie & Jack (Penelope):  This is fine because obviously they're going to end up together eventually. <3  (I mean, the movie doesn't actually do much of  anything to indicate that that will be the case, but I have a sense about these things.)

Rebecca & Ivanhoe (Ivanhoe):  Good potential, but not, I think, exactly right for each other.  So, I'm good with it.

Rory & Jess (Gilmore Girls):  Urrrrrgggghhhhh DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED.

(They will end up together.  They will.  But the fact that the show didn't leave us with any assurance of that bOtHeRs Me.  I have so many complaints.)

Liesel & Max (The Book Thief):  I BELIEVE THEY ENDED UP TOGETHER.  I refuse to believe that they did not.  So there.

(But I'm okay with the fact that it's not a for-sure-and-certain thing, because that allows people to interpret the end in their own way.)

Eliza & Higgins (My Fair Lady):  Same goes for these two.  My personal opinion?  They probably do end up together--after Higgins has made some Significant Changes in his life. :-P

HOWEVER, I respect your right to be repulsed by the bare idea of the two of them together in a romantic way, and therefore I appreciate the open-to-interpretation nature of the ending.

That's really all I've got for now.  I don't know.  I was expecting this to be a more put-together post, but . . .


  1. lol I am 100% Team Jess, and I do firmly believe that they ended up together. I don't know if you watched the revival, but there were some definite hints to what the future would hold.

    I personally loved the ending to Roman Holiday, because I feel like that's more realistic. Hearts break when there's been real connection, but no real intention. It's sad, but it's life. Maybe I'm just a cynic. XD

    1. It's actually interesting, I've been watching/thinking about Gilmore Girls a lot lately and I've actually--horror of horrors--started having my doubts about Rory & Jess's future! Like, since posting this. :-P But I think . . . I think I still WANT them to end up together, and I feel pretty confident that it's at least POSSIBLE that they ended up together. Yeah, the very end of the revival was a little hopeful for me, because, as somebody somewhere pointed out, you can think of it as a "history repeats itself" kind of thing: Jess will be Rory's Luke, basically. And Logan will probably be Rory's Christopher. :-P

      Haha! I'm sure you're not a CYNIC. ;) But I do get what you mean. And yeah, I personally am fine with the ending! (Though, of course, one would LIKE the fairytale ending. ;))

  2. What did Much see in Kate? How could he forget Eve? Argh!! He is one of my favorites besides that.

    Ah, Roman Holiday! I've only seen it once, and as you say I didn't hate the ending, I just was expecting something else.

    I'm working on watching Gilmore Girls right now! In order, I am at episode 9 season 1, but I have watched random episodes from many seasons and though I have only seen one episode with Jess I really ship him with Rory. Even though they don't get together on the show, I am positive that they get together later. :)


      Right. It's not what you expect out of what was previously such a happy, chick-flick-y movie, but it works for the story.

      That's the spirit!! :D

  3. Hi Olivia! I'm new in the blogging community, but I've been reading your blog for awhile and I thought I would drop a comment! :)

    I never know how to feel about endings like these. I must say that the first time I watched Roman Holiday, I was rather distraught at the ending. They should have ended up together!! But aso, like you said, I was kinda ok with it...

    Jess and Rory!!! Yesss!! I haven't finished the series yet, I'm in season 5 right now, but I agree that they totally should end up together!!

    YASSS GIRL! Max and Leisel DO end up together!! You're the first person who has agreed with me on this!! So many yes!!!

    I still have mixed feelings about Eliza and Higgens. Cause like... I want them to be together... but I don't... you feel me? Like you said, Higgens would DEFINITELY have to make some SERIOUS life changes before I'm satisfied ;)

    Another couple who I always thought should have ended up together were Mia and Sebastian from La La Land. The first time I watched the movie, I was 100% NOT ok with the ending! HOW COULD THEY NOT BE TOGETHER!!! NOOOOOO!

    But then I rewatched it, and this time I was more ok with it. Still not completely ok, but more ok ;)

    Also your couple themed blog look is gorgeous!! <3 I love it!!

    Lovely post Olivia! I can't wait to read more!! :D

    1. Awwww, thanks, Bella! That makes me happy; thank you. :D

      It is kind of a distressing thing, that ending! It's just, yeah, not an unreasonable one.

      Yes!! I mean, as I've been re-watching season 3, I've actually started thinking about it a little more/differently . . . I mean, Jess is a jerk as a teen. Like, that's just inescapable. He's a real jerk. And he really doesn't treat Rory right. BUT, I do think he truly, truly loves her, especially once he grows up and matures.

      YAAAAAASSSSSSS!! *huge high five* I mean, right?!?! Like, how could they not?! Even if it's not explicitly spelled out. They belong together. :) Oh my goodness, am I really the first to agree? Well, that's kind of cool, I guess, but also kind of sad. xD

      Oh, I definitely feel you. I personally adore Higgins, but he's high-key a terrible person. So I completely understand/respect people being unsure of their feelings on the two of them being "together". :-P

      *smacks forehead* Mia and Sebastian! Now, that would have been a PERFECT couple to include in this post! Because, yes, they are definitely an example of how I DON'T like this "trope" to be done! But that gets into all my thoughts on that movie, and that's kind of another story . . .

      Awwwww, thank you so much!!

      Thanks a bunch! I'm so happy to have you around! :D

  4. I love your new header!

    I think the only one of these I've seen is Penelope, but that was so long ago I don't even remember what you're talking about!!

    However, I hate ambiguous endings.

    1. Thank you so much, Erudessa!

      Haha, can't blame you there--they are definitely a subplot point. ;)

      I'm picky about them. *nods*

  5. Bravo, my dear--wonderful post!!! I love it when you do thought-provoking stuff like this :D

    And as for couples who don't end up together . . . *coughs* Given that some of my FAVORITE couples actually happen to be those who don't end up together, I can't exactly rail against this Trope, now can I?

    Like Liesel and Rudy from The Book Thief--I don't have any feelings either way about Liesel and Max, but Liesel and Rudy are #otp forever and I am sooooooooooooooooo sad that they couldn't make it; but--like--I don't hate it??? I understand why the author did it.

    Clintasha from the MCU is another story. TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE DECISION ON THE PART OF THE WRITERS. I will never be okay with that. *growls incoherently* That's an example where this trope Should Not Have Been Used.

    On the other hand, Rose and the Doctor from Doctor Who, my all-time top favorite couple . . . the ending of their story makes perfect sense, even though it also makes me cryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

    1. Awwwwww! *blushes* Thank you so much, darling--that makes me really happy. :D

      Haha! I suppose not . . . Unless you want to rail about the fact that your favorite couples are deprived of a fairytale ending. ;D

      Gotcha. Yeah, that's the thing--I love all three of them so much; it's sad how everything turns out, but at the same time, I don't really feel betrayed by Zusak? You know??

      OKAY I AM FOREVER SO CONFUSED BY THE MCU'S TREATMENT OF NATASHA'S LOVE LIFE. 'Cause, like, first (in Avengers) they seem to be going in a Cintasha direction, right? And then (in Winter Soldier) it's Cap & Natasha, and then (in Ultron) apparently she's with Bruce?!?! Like, what?!?!?! As you know, I've thought that she and Cap would be good, but I'm not diehard about the idea and I could definitely see her and Clint, even from the very little bit I know about them. But either way, like, COULD YOU JUST TELL ME DEFINITIVELY?!?!?! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!?! *sigh* So, I get what you mean, there.

      Awwwwww!!! <3 Just in case I ever watch Doctor Who, I won't ask exactly how they end (though I have a vague idea). :-P

      Thanks so much for your comment! It made me happy. :) <3

  6. I love how you point out that there needs to be a good reason for the romance to happen and end. As much as I hate that Joe and Anya didn't end up together, I get it. I also semi get the creative license with Max and Liesel although they were too close NOT to end up together.

    An example of pointless romance: LaLa Land. Going in I thought the ending was sad, as in tragic, but no, it was sad as in pathetic. It devalued everything that went before. It made the rest of it look like a joke.

    1. Exactly. I pretty much agree with everything you said, especially about La La Land. It's funny, I even knew what was going to happen going into the movie, but I still felt underwhelmed at the end. As you said, it was sad, but "sad as in pathetic." It really did, for me, devalue everything that went before, because there was not a strong enough reason given for why they didn't end up together--literally the only explanation we got (at least explicitly) was long distance. And I'm all, "Excuse me, no?!"

  7. Yup. One of my all-time favorite romances, Buffy and Angel, just don't end up together. I mean, the series ending of Buffy left it open to them maybe getting together again some day, but the series ending of Angel was pretty much everybody probably dies (except in my head, where they don't, but let's be reasonable and accept that they probably just all die. I'm only telling you this cuz you're probably never going to watch the shows anyway). But anyway, when Angel walks out of Buffy's life at the end of season 3 of Buffy, it's for the best because they are not what each other needs. So I'm okay with it.

    Man, I'm trying to think of other pairs that don't end up together that I'm okay with. Hmm. Oh, duh. Rick & Ilsa in Casablanca. Not meant to be, but they'll always have Paris.

    1. Haha, I love that you know me well enough to know that I probably won't ever watch that show even though we've never talked about it. XD XD And you're right--it's highly unlikely. :-P I mean, I will put aside a lot of genre preferences if I'm sufficiently strongly motivated to experience a couple, but . . . "on this point, perhaps it will be as well" to refrain from trying it. XD

      I get what you mean. Sometimes you really, really love a couple, but they just don't end up together; and even though it's disappointing in one sense, it's not always necessarily bad or wrong.

      "They'll always have Paris" << I see what you did there. ;)

  8. I always sob at the end of Roman Holiday. It's such a beautiful and touching ending. I definetly think Jess and Rori would be a good match, but it doesn't affect me that much because I don't really like Rori. Eliza and Henry should be a match. And yeees Max and Leisel I totally ship it, but in the end I feel like maybe they're not together, when it shows the photos in her home and such. But who knows, I'll keep up my wishful thinking. This was a fantastic post!

    1. I get that. *nods* Haha! Yeah, with Max and Liesel I still feel like there's a definite possibility--even with the photos at the end of the movie--but who knows for sure. ;) Thank you so much!!

  9. I don't think these endings are unexpected, in fact, I expect them, well, some of them to end this way because of how the story moves, but yeah, it's a bit sad.

    ann & joe - I really didn't expect them to end up together because of their social status.

    annie & jack - I do see them living a happy live together, that seems to be how the ending is leaning toward, for me at least

    liesel & max - I don't know, I just get this feeling max is too old for her, poor rudy though

    eliza & higgins - yeah, they'll be together, that's how the ending seems.

    have a lovely day.

    1. That's a good point. I guess I was meaning unexpected in terms of "unexpected for romance as a whole" if you approach it from a more traditional (or childhood) idea of fairytale endings.

      Yeah, that makes sense.

      Same. :)

      Definitely a valid concern--I don't personally share it, but I get it. I know!!! Poor Rudy. :'(

      Haha, seems to be to me.

      Thank you!!

  10. Well, in "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw, Eliza Doolittle at the end marries Freddy Eynsford Hill. I actually liked that much more than the movie's ending! :)

    1. Exactly! See, personally, as a Higgins lover/sort of Eliza-Higgins shipper, I love how Alan Jay Lerner addressed that in his foreword to My Fair Lady. It's really fun. :D

  11. Very interesting!! I only know a few here but I'm very keen to lay down my thoughts on them. :P

    Ann and Joe - I remember when I first watched it I was very disappointed they didn't end up together. I still am. I think they should, although I do understand why they didn't.

    Rory and Jess - Okay, so I'm only on season 3 at the moment!! But I don't want them to break up (and then I hear mention of a guy called Logan and I'm like NNNNNOOOOOOOOO)! How many seasons are there? And there still is no resolution to Rory's love life by the end of it? Wow...

    Eliza and Higgins - haha... hmm... I really don't know. :P Well, I mean, they seem to WANT to be together, but I don't know if Eliza could handle Higgins unless, as you said, he has some major life changes. There's potential, but I wouldn't be confident in it being a healthy relationship some how. :P

    Also, Mia and Sebastian from La La Land are definitely coming to mind, and I'm a big supporter that they should have stayed together. It's SUCH a bittersweet ending, and I kind of see where they were going with it, but it basically meant that they valued their dreams more than each other and I'm kinda not okay with that. >:/

    1. Yay!! :D

      Yeah. It's tough, because there's no reason why they shouldn't be together aside from the social/rank issue. But, at the same time, that issue IS there, so . . . yeah. I'm okay with it, although obviously it'd be a happier movie if it ended differently. ;)

      Oh, bless you. You've got some fun coming. :-P The Jess and Rory thing is complicated and I have more thoughts on it than I'd like to go into in a comment setting, but . . . *sigh* Yeah. Struggles. :-P (I KNOW. Like, geez. SEVEN SEASONS--plus a four-part revival that's the equivalent of four movies--and she's still . . . ?!?!?! *sigh the second* Frustration. :-P)

      Haha! I feel you, I feel you. You've got valid points. :D

      YES! Okay, so, as you know, I didn't love that movie, and that's one of the big reasons. Because, to me, there wasn't a sufficiently strong reason for them to not end up together. So I was not pleased. :-P Hehe.


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