Thursday, July 18, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Love At First Sight’ is the Haley Lu Richardson Show

Director: Vanessa Caswill
Writers: Katie Lovejoy and Jennifer E. Smith
Stars: Haley Lu Richardson, Ben Hardy, Rob Delaney

Synopsis: Hadley and Oliver begin to fall for each other on their flight from New York to London. The probability of ever finding each other again seems impossible, but love – and London – may have a way of defying the odds.

The Netflix film Love at First Sight is exactly what you think it will be. It’s wholly manipulative, dripping with sentimentality, and overflowing with romantic drama cliches. Not to mention casting the most talented and completely adorable actress of her generation, Haley Lu Richardson, who can blind your eyes to all of these staples if you allow it. Then you cast a hunky guy with some vulnerability and an accent that weakens a good portion of viewers’ knees, and you have a crowd-pleasing streaming hit that keeps Netflix subscribers returning for more.

The problem is you cannot help smiling and feeling anything but genuine affection for the picture. 

The story follows a young woman traveling to England for the first time for her estranged father’s wedding. Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) has yet to talk to her dad (Rob Delaney) since he left for a professorship in literature at Oxford. To make matters worse, Hadley missed her flight and will arrive just a few hours before the nuptials instead of the day before. Thankfully, she meets a handsome young man her age, who ever so charmingly drops the fact he’s studying mathematics at Yale as they bond over the one condiment both of them detest (it’s mayonnaise, in case you were wondering).

As “fate” (played by Jameela Jamil), as we will explain later would have it, Oliver (Ben Hardy) is bumped into business class and right next to this generation’s next Meg Ryan. As the night in the friendly sky progresses, they begin to connect on a deeper level. Naturally, after spending the night sleeping side by side in seats with an exceptional amount of legroom, they wake up beside one another.

It hardly matters, but they both wake up looking immaculate. Their hair is perfectly in place, and no one thinks they must brush their teeth or swig some mouthwash. When Hadley and Oliver deplane, they get separated at customs and work through their own personal demons and impending tragedies before their paths cross again.

Love at First Sight is based on the best-selling novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith and adapted for the streaming screen by Katie Lovejoy (To All the Boys: Always and Forever). Directed by Vanessa Caswill (Gold Digger), her film is an utterly charming romance that hits the right notes of laughter, sweetness, and poignancy to captivate viewers who love their films with a light touch.

The script is broken up into three parts, with the first thirty minutes being the most effective as the viewer is swept up in their flirtations because of the exceptional chemistry between the leads. The first act flies by, and you’ll appreciate the efforts not to overindulge the viewer in the romance. The script then moves into both leads dealing with their family situations, with Hadley experiencing a Neal Page moment that Hardy’s Oliver is going through something far more significant than he led on.

That storyline is not as entertaining and does drag slightly at times going forward. For example, this leads to Oliver and Hadley having your typical romantic cliché with a slight fight or disagreement. However, the film bucks the trend of your usual subterfuge, which is refreshingly different yet still unabashedly pulls at the heartstrings without regret. (I should also mention solid work by Sally Phillips and Dexter Fletcher in cameos). Even the storytelling tool of Jamil’s narrator, who represents “fate” that all stories like this depend on, is so different that you won’t mind that the character is overplayed.

Yes, Love at First Sight is a genre movie, so you will have your usual redundancy across the board regarding a film like this. However, this romance is quirky, soulful, and well-designed compared to other movies of its ilk, like the lazy and dull Ellie Kemper vehicle Happiness for Beginners that came out last month on the streaming giant. It’s a romance film that hits the right not all, but most of the right notes for fans of the genre and newcomers alike. 

And sometimes, that’s all you need, but just make sure you have Haley Lu Richardson as your lead. 

Grade: B-

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