Perhaps its biggest flaw is its overly cutesy tone, even when dealing with more serious subjects, but the romance Love at First Sight has the distinct advantage of having two really strong and likable actors at its center who know how to extract the perfect combination of drama and charm from every scene and give the film an emotional weight that probably wasn’t in the screenplay. Based on the popular novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith and marking the feature writing/directing debut of TV veteran Vanessa Caswill, the movie uses numbers and statistics to tell a fairly convincing love story in a sweet, but slightly sad context.
As narrator, Jameela Jamil (who also plays several supporting characters) gives us a great deal of background information about our two leads and the circumstances that bring them together in an airport waiting on their flight from New York to London. Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) is going to her father’s wedding, which she’s none too thrilled about, having never met the bride-to-be and being slightly resentful of her father leaving her behind, after she grew up feeling quite close to him. Oliver (Ben Hardy, who played Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody) is coming back home from college for something akin to a living memorial service being held for someone close to him who is about to die but wants to have the party before that happens. He doesn’t admit this to Hadley initially because he’s having such a good time getting to know her in the airport and later on the plane, when they coincidentally get seated together (again, the odds of something like this happening factor into the storytelling here).
The pair lose each other in customs, but they both have events to get to in a hurry, so they let the chance meeting go for now. She goes to her wedding and ends up loving her dad’s new wife, which of course softens her toward her father’s decisions. Rob Delaney plays dad, and he might be the most understanding person ever to set foot in a movie. Hadley decides to use the four hours between the wedding and reception to try to find Oliver’s event, which she thought was another wedding. And when she arrives, she’s stunned at the truth, and he’s more than a little frustrated that she found out at all. Dexter Fletcher and Sally Phillips play his parents, who see a great deal of their unconventional love story in what Oliver and Hadley seemingly have, and they bend over backwards to make sure he doesn’t mess this one up before it even gets off the ground.
I deliberately didn’t call Love at First Sight a “romantic comedy” because humor isn’t really the driving force in this story. It certainly has its lighthearted moments, but the guarded nature of the two lead characters is rooted in some fairly serious fears about life and love and loss. She’s a bit of a mess (her phone battery is always on the verge of dying, for example), while he’s a control freak, always aware of the probability of something happening or not happening. While these may seem like gimmick-based personality traits, Richardson and Hardy are strong enough as performers to keep the believability of the romance afloat whenever things threaten to become saccharine. This is no masterwork of romantic filmmaking, but I found myself caring about what happens to this couple (and boy do we find out in the movie’s last bit of narration), and odds are you will too.
The film is now streaming on Netflix.
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