Michelangelo’s Fall Phaeton, 1533. Photograph: Artefact/Alamy

From Sex Education’s greatest friends to Michelangelo’s masculine inspiration, we choose five passionate yet ultimately chaste relationships


Michelangelo’s Fall Phaeton, 1533.

Michelangelo’s Fall Phaeton, 1533. Photograph: Artefact/Alamy

The Renaissance mastermind Michelangelo fell in love with Tommaso dei Cavalieri when he was in his 50s. One of the things he gave him was this picture; it even includes a message asking Tommaso what he thinks of it. However, Michelangelo also produced poetry in which he insisted that his love was platonic, gaining inspiration from a philosophical idea that love has the power to elevate one to the spiritual. Plato was well-known to Michelangelo, and the artist even compared himself to Socrates, who according to Plato slept chastely next to his partner all night. Jones, Jonathan


Thérèse Liotard and Valérie Mairesse in One Sings, The Other Doesn’t.

Thérèse Liotard and Valérie Mairesse in One Sings, The Other Doesn’t. Photograph: film company handout

In French filmmaker Agnès Varda’s contemplative drama One Sings, the Other Doesn’t, boyfriends and spouses come and go, but what endures is a decade-long friendship between two women active in the feminism movement in 1970s France. Pauline, a 17-year-old student in Paris, helps Suzanne, a 20-year-old single mother, pay for an abortion in 1962. After ten years, they cross paths again during an abortion rights protest. Pauline is now a free-spirited folk singer, and Suzanne is the expert manager of a family planning clinic. Pauline’s songs embrace her right to physical autonomy. They come and go from each other’s life, sometimes getting back together and exchanging letters while they’re separated. A much-needed celebration of female solidarity across generations, personalities, and periods joins the film’s regrettably restored political relevance, which was produced by Varda in 1977, two years after abortion became legal in France. Becky Liu


The Village Idiot by Steve Stern,

Amedeo Modigliani, a cultured Italian artist, meets Cham Soutine, a much more outlandish character who has escaped to Paris from a Russian shtetl, in Steve Stern’s historical book The Village Idiot. By dragging him around the City of Lights’ brothels and bars, supplying him with absinthe, and implicating him in crimes, Modigliani does his best to make his companion lose his innocence. However, the longest-lasting, sweetest impression in this exuberant, big-hearted book is the respect and affection Modigliani has for his fellow artist. Jordison, Sam


Ncuti Gatwa as Eric and Asa Butterfield as Otis in Sex Education.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric and Asa Butterfield as Otis in Sex Education. Photograph: Sam Taylor/Netflix/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Of all the relationships in Sex Education, Otis and Eric’s chemistry and love may be the most successful and believable. Their relationship is more genuine than that of their primary love interests, Otis and Maeve and Eric and Adam, who sometimes come across as forced. It would be simple to reduce their bond to the fact that they both sit outside the social hierarchy of Moordale secondary school because of how drastically different their personalities and motivations are, but instead they are connected by their capacity to read each other’s emotions and confide in their most insecurities. Their friendship too has its ups and downs, and it teaches us to consider the dedication we owe to our platonic relationships and the effort they demand to maintain. Jonathan Okunday


Please Don’t Make This Weird by Tinyumbrellas

Please Don’t Make This Weird by Tinyumbrellas

Everyone has had the feeling of getting along well with someone, wondering whether romance is in the cards, and then suddenly realizing that you’ve gotten quite carried away with the wrong end of the stick. Please Don’t Make This Weird by Leeds-based newcomer Tinyumbrellas finds the joy in being “just mates,” weaving it into a beautiful ukulele-accompanied olive branch of true friendship. Connection may take many different shapes. No one can predict where this narrative will go, despite the timid beginnings (“Please hold me near / But keep me at a distance”). Williams, Jenessa


Thanks to  and  at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.