As it's Valentine's day today and the superficiality of this banal festival of love is upon us, I thought I would return to one of the most romantic movies I have ever seen: 2009's Adventureland starring Jess Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Wiig.

In Adventureland Jesse Eisenberg plays James Brennan, a young guy who has just had his dreams of attending a European university quashed by his father's changing employment situation. Brennan is forced to find a summer job at 'Adventureland' where his life changes when he meets a new lover and a new set of friends.

In 2009 I was sceptical about Adventureland, mainly because Greg Mottola had previously worked on the atrociously boring and bawdy Superbad (2007). It is to his credit that he managed to craft a wonderfully entertaining and heartfelt movie that is truly inspirational and a movie that has subtle moments that elicit a beautiful sense of the wider themes at play in society, sexual life and the truly complicated romance of the human heart. Adventureland itself works because the picture is able to portray the microcosm of the age group portrayed on screen at a time in life when love, friendship and kinship is so illuminating.

The nicest thing about the story is that it goes against the grain of some much vaunted romantic classics such as The Notebook (2004). Here the hero and love interest for the heroine of the story Em, played by Kristen Stewart, is a nerdy, nervous and unsettled individual played here by Jesse Eisenberg. While the movie's most attractive male character Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds) is actually an emotional antagonist toward her affections. In this movie even the female at the theme park with the most elegant and voluptuous features may not be anything more than an aesthetic choice for the main character and his 'reading poetry for pleasure sometimes' persona. They are not a good match together and it is this romantic quandary that lies at the heart of the movie.

In Adventureland love is compartmentalized by the two main characters as something that exists via a subjective understanding that betrays the mainstays of capitalist culture and religious stereotyping. When Em drives Brennan home after a night of drinking he tells her that his mother wants him to join a Fortune 500 company and her reply is 'fuck that right' as she instantly understands his yearning towards a more altruistic career in journalism. From here his eyes wander in shock as his eyes seem to indicate that he has not yet heard anything like that from someone in his life.

  • Margarita Levieva as Lisa P in Adventureland (2009)

Because of the comedic and relaxed nature of the movie, the more serious moments aren't hammered home, but they do offer a beautifully liberalist poignancy that offers depth to what could simply be an archetypal love story. The movie even addresses the undertones of masculine vulnerability as Ryan Reynolds lies his way from bedroom to bedroom. That all of these thematic elements feature in a movie about a romance started at a theme park is truly stunning. While it moves toward a traditionally cathartic ending, the conclusion is so beautifully played and a wonder to watch. Nihilism has its place in characterisation and narrative, but thankfully not in a romantic comedy like this!

The performances in the movie are wonderful, Jesse Eisenberg is superbly vulnerable and unhinged, Kristen Stewart manages to be imperfect, kind and flawed and easily her strongest movie so far. The supporting cast are all superb too with a special mention going to Martin Starr as Joel and Margarita Levieva as the much envied Lisa P.

There is one scene in the movie as Crowded House's 'Don't Dream It's Over' plays as Em and Brennan look up at the fireworks in front of them. This movie, like them, is one that looks towards the stars.