Books and movies that put intimacy for the 40+ crowd center stage.
Judging by the movies, it’d be a safe bet to think that there’s an expiration date on romance. Just consider the fact that in 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, Jules (Julia Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) had promised each other at age 26 that if they were still single at the ripe old age of 28, they’d marry each other. Sure, a lot has changed in 20 years, but there’s still a long way to go. Popular culture has done a lot to try to convince us that people over the age of 40 can’t find love, much less lead active, healthy sex lives. In reality, that couldn’t be further than the truth.
Stories about love tend to default to youth, focusing on the trials and tribulations of teenage crushes, 20-something dating blunders, and, increasingly, 30-something romance. But there’s no end date to desirability, and luckily, there are some books and movies that recognize the importance of sexuality at all ages. These stories each satisfy a different kind of craving, but in them all, you’ll find a strong sense of intimacy, the occasional dose of welcome corniness, and sometimes, a face-flushing scene that will stay on your mind for days.
Spending by Mary Gordon What if a middle-aged female artist had all of the...benefits...traditionally afforded to established male artists? When the protagonist of this novel, Monica, meets a wealthy benefactor, she finds out—and it leads to a (quite literally) orgasmic artistic epiphany.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) By today’s standards, the successful, 40-year-old stockbroker played by none other than the iconic Angela Bassett realistically never lost her groove. But still, a romance movie that explores the complexities of an age-imbalanced relationship makes for a feel-good watch (even if it comes along with some unexpected emotional plot twists.
It’s Complicated (2009) There’s no discussion of a later-in-life intimacy story without a nod to Nancy Meyers. Her oeuvre, after all, isn’t just about fantastic kitchens: This classic pairs Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep as two divorcees in a will-they-or-won’t-they again all about rekindling their sex lives.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Kaswal There’s obvious power in learning how to vocalize your deepest desires—and while that’s not what a group of London-based Sikh widows expected to take away from their English class, one woman’s discovery of a book of erotica leads them down this path. While this novel may not hone in on romance, it spirals out into an especially compelling mystery.
Just Wright (2010) When an unlucky-in-love physical therapist, played by Queen Latifah, is tasked with helping an injured basketball star (played by Common) get back on the court, she’s not naive enough to expect any feelings to arise between the two. But of course: This is a love story, and it’s one that allows its characters the space to find both love and success in their work lives.
Last Chance Harvey (2009) Sometimes, it’s your deepest shared dissatisfactions that draws you to another person. That may not be the most romantic truth, but it is the relatable factor at the core of this Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson rom-com—and the duo’s less-than-optimistic perspective are what make their chemistry even more heartening.
Find Me by André Aciman Was your favorite character in Call Me By Your Name actually...Elio’s dad? Good news: the first part of Aciman’s sequel is totally devoted to Samuel “Sami” Perlman’s later-in-life sexual reawakening. The later parts of the book also bring back Oliver and Elio in a conclusion to their story that might read a little like fan-fiction—but what’s the harm in that?