Hollywood fads are notoriously fickle, but for as long as I can remember, one thing that has never gone out of vogue is the sprawling multi-character, multiple-storyline saga, where the seemingly disparate characters and stories turn out to have some thematic or actual connection to each other. I think that's because it's such a tempting exercise for a screenwriter -- particularly a young screenwriter. It's also a way of giving a "small" movie the illusion of a grand scope. This weekend's Valentine's Day is already being ridiculed for taking the almost-cliché to new heights, tossing over 20 principal characters into a two-hour movie and hoping that Love Actually lightning strikes. In honor of that valiant (if misguided) effort, here's a quick list of seven relatively recent flicks that did the multiple-storyline thing right.

1. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. The "one thing" being happiness, it turns out -- or maybe luck. Jill Sprecher's underseen 2001 drama should be the model for this sort of movie going forward: unassuming and unpretentious, it takes advantage of the multiple-storyline gimmick, making it part of its theme rather than just a stunt.
categories Cinematical