Number of scenes featuring two women: 1
Number of scenes featuring Ryan O'Neal playing squash for no apparent reason: 2
Number of dreams Ali MacGraw gives up to allow Ryan O'Neal to do what his daddy wants: 1


I've always thought of myself as empathetic and easily moved by the plight of others, but lately I've been wondering if this is a big misdiagnosis. I can remember crying in many films as a child - The Fox and the Hound destroyed me - but the last film I can remember moving me to tears was Beaches, with Bette Midler, when I was 12.

Love Story is supposedly one of history's greatest weepies, a pure and unselfconscious appeal to our sense of compassion, but I never cried, nor even considered it a viable option. I was shocked afterwards to discover Zanna's cheeks were stained with tears.


"When did you cry?" I asked.
"The bit where she died, obviously," she said.
I told her the only thing that made me want to cry was a doctor thinking it was okay to tell a woman's husband, but not the woman, that she is terminally ill.

Watching the end credits, the name of the screenwriter Erich Segal resonated, and when I Googled him I remembered why: Last year, I had read a vicious takedown essay called "Mush", by Nora Ephron, in which she wrote of the book (also called Love Story, also by Segal) on which the movie is based: "I cried, in much the same way I cry from onions, involuntarily and with great irritation." The book was, she wrote, "witless, stupid and manipulative". Regarding the movie, I would only add: "offensive" and "boring".

That Zanna liked the movie didn't surprise me - this is the kind of thing she does. Still, I asked her why. She had two reasons. First, in crazy times like these, she said, it's good to go back and watch something so old. I didn't understand what that meant and couldn't be bothered finding out. Second, she said: "I don't think it's that easy to make people cry," which is pretty rich coming from someone who has cried in at least the last three films she's watched.

Afterwards, having asked Google Home, "How successful was Love Story?" I discovered it had received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for best picture, and was the top-grossing film of 1970. I wept for all humanity.


Greg's never been interested in watching romance movies - at least not since we've been married. But every now and again he'll say something mind-blowing like "Never Been Kissed was one of my favourite films" or "I've chosen Love Story for us to watch" and I'll be reminded that you never really know someone.

I wasn't particularly enthused about watching, during a global pandemic, a weepy romance in which - spoiler alert - one of the leads gets sick and dies. But then we started watching it and I felt like a 50-year-old film was exactly the escape I needed.

Would I say Love Story was good? No, I would not. Despite the fact Jenny, the female lead, is supposed to be an independent modern woman, the film fails the Bechdel test miserably. This woman has no friends and no mother, no other women in her life at all. In fact, the only other female in the film is Jenny's mother-in-law, who is in a grand total of one - comically short - scene.


At the risk of this spiralling into a feminist rant, it's painfully obvious Jenny was written by a man. I can almost hear him pitching the story: "Jenny is a real firecracker". The back and forths between Jenny and Oliver are supposed to register as undeniable chemistry but I found both characters undeniably annoying.

Oliver says some abhorrent things I think are supposed to be cute: "You're not that pretty, you know?"; "I might not call you for a few months, or I might call you tonight"; "Listen, you conceited Radcliffe bitch". To be fair, she is kind of a bitch.

Perhaps the most famous and schlocky line from the movie is "Love means never having to say you're sorry" which, in the words of Jenny, is bulls***. Greg is constantly apologising for his failings, which is necessary.

I've pointed out before that a film being good and me enjoying a film are not the same thing. This film was not good but I did enjoy it. Some would call that a guilty pleasure, but I feel no guilt.

I may have laughed when it wasn't supposed to be funny but I was also emotionally engaged enough to shed a tear. Truly bad films do not have the capacity to elicit emotions beyond frustration but Love Story does, and perhaps not surprisingly for a film that doesn't really know women, the most touching scene is between two men.