In the words of Louisa May Alcott: “Love is a great beautifier.” Whether it’s platonic or romantic, the love we share with others plays a vast role in making us better humans. Some of the couples on this list were tragically set for an unhappy ending, but that doesn’t change the fact that what’s happened between them is still moving and magnanimous. The stories were healing, beautifully sincere, and some of the best written romantic arcs I’ve seen in a while.
1. Sidney Parker and Charlotte Heywood
The slow progression of this stunning relationship is the kind of romance dreams are made of, and with further progression, I’m almost certain they might become my favorite Austen couple. (No one tell Emma and Knightley.) There’s so much I could say about Sidney and Charlotte, and the unyielding, beautifully touching love they have for one another. There’s something so achingly immaculate about a man whose heart was shattered and darkened opening up to a woman whose innocence brought him back to life. Sidney wasn’t unkind out of malicious intent, but because the cruelty and rejection he faced stripped him bare and broke him at his core, it took the parts of him that felt entirely too much and instead awakened an anger in him. The past took no pity on him, and as a result, his instincts resulted in, attack first, explain later because that’s easier than to unveiling his heart and risking pain all over again. Then, in came a woman with an innocence that tore him to shreds not because she’d broken him further, but because she’d taken the parts of him that had been darkened and restored light into them. A restoration that took time because the severity of the damages done were viscous, and an awakening that opened up parts of him no other human had ever gotten close to. That’s why “I’ve never wanted to put myself in someone else’s before” is so profoundly poignant as a declaration because it bares him more than the afternoon at the coves ever did. It’s Sidney Parker at his most vulnerable, promising that in spite of what lies ahead, the all-consuming adoration Charlotte’s awakened in him will be the governing force behind his every act.
Charlotte doesn’t get to tell him just how much she adores him, but we know as viewers that his flawed, incomparably quiet tenderness is something she’s completely grateful for. He challenges her ideals, breaks down her walls, and most importantly, he listens to her. He respects and values her good opinion, and in the same way, she values his. When given the chance, she’d do anything in her power, go above and beyond just to adore him. If the events of the finale indicate one thing, it’s that both Charlotte and Sidney have never known pain greater than the parting they faced. She’d never be so selfish to tell him to stay and inspired by her scolding, he’s doing the very thing she once told him, too. (Look after his family.) They’re each other’s everything. (I think about Sidney’s inability to respond to Charlotte’s: “Is that all that I am to you? A source of amusement?” To which it’s so clear, he wants to say that she’s in fact, everything. It’s written all over his face and it’s heard in his breathless stutter.) Come what may they’ll find their way back to each other, anchored at sea is their unceasing love for one another that’s stronger and deeper than anything they’ll ever experience, and a love like that withstands all sorts of trials.