Why “Instalove” isn’t an Issue of Time

(3 minute read:)

Hey, everyone! Tanager here! Three things this week got me thinking about instalove, and how I’ve probably been oversimplifying what that is exactly, so I figured it would be a good topic for my first post!

So are you ready to fall in love with me fast? Like, really fast? Great! Let’s get started!


My sister and I still share an Amazon account (What can I say? We’re both too lazy to make new ones.). She accidentally signed us up for Prime’s free trial this month, and I’ve been binging an embarrassing amount of TV because of it. Thanks to a couple examples I saw on there (and a book review that made me wonder why I didn’t agree with it), I’ve been forced to consider that I’ve been unfair in my definition of instalove.

To keep things short, I’ll primarily focus on one example, the movie MILLENNIUM ACTRESS.

To understand how this fantastic piece of art connects to instalove, I’m going to quickly summarize the movie’s premise.

MILLENNIUM ACTRESS is about Chiyoko, a once famous movie star — now elderly recluse — recounting her life-story to a biographer. Dementia causes memories of Chiyoko’s real life — and the wars and heartaches she’s lived through — to mix into the worlds of the movies she’s been in. And the various characters she’s played become more and more one with herself. The whole thing is beautifully surreal. It could have been confusing for the audience, but it’s not, because the narrative is driven by one powerful thing which connects all the disjointed fragments: a love story.

I bet you all are wondering when I’m going to get to the topic of instalove. Well, sit down, you impatient adorables. Here’s where instalove comes in (This is also where things get a little spoilery, so be warned).

When Chiyoko is a young teen, she saves a peace activist who’s being hunted by the government. She and this mysterious young man maybe spend one evening together, talking and bonding though the night. In the morning he’s discovered by police, and he’s forced to run again. After spending just one night together, these two people spend the next few decades trying to find one another again.

TLDR: A famous actress falls in love with a young activist. After only spending a few hours together, she spends the next 70-80 YEARS (or so) looking for him.

Pretty fast to fall deeply in love, right? Right. But is it instalove? No. Does it work as a romance that carries through decades? YES. I 100% believed in this romance. And what did I learn from it?

There is no scientifically quantifiable time-frame for love to bloom. 

None. Zero.


Circumstances change timelines.

Do we all recognize instalove when we see it? Yes. Do we all hate it when we see it? Yes. But I think we’re wrong when we think of it strictly being a fast romance (as I’ve seen some reviewers use as a definition). Fast romances can and do work. And many circumstances can speed up that time-frame (using examples from the books and movies I’m thinking about right now: character ages; and things like war, starvation, and other high-stress situations where people are vulnerable, create faster bonds). Love isn’t about simply putting in the hours and getting your time-card stamped. The reason we don’t enjoy instalove isn’t because it happened fast. It’s because we never felt a real connection between the characters. It’s all about how an author/director/creator executes a romance, not about how quickly it happens.

Believable romances are about what characters do with the time they share together, not about how much time they actually have.


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