Love at First Kiss 2023 Movie Review
Alauda Ruiz de Azúa’s romantic comedy, Love at First Kiss (Eres tú, in the Spanish orginal), could have been so much better. For starters, there is almost no humour worth speaking of. There isn’t even a solitary moment in this cliched story that attempts to make you laugh. It unfolds in the vein of a romantic drama with little to no insight thrown on the complex workings of the human heart vis-à-vis love, relationships and commitment. The sad thing here is that the acting isn’t bad at all. The cast led by Álvaro Cervantes holds its own with a realistic portrayal. But when the writing is so predictably bad, there isn’t much for the actors to salvage.
Love at First Kiss bases itself on a lame premise. Javier (Álvaro Cervantes) has a rare gift. He is able to see how a relationship will pan out with a woman from the first kiss they share. And here’s the kicker: he has possessed this ability from puberty, when he locked lips with a girl during a game of Spin the Bottle. His boyhood relationship goes south, eventually (he witnesses his girlfriend smooch another female classmate in the library). Why he would go through with it, to begin with, having the foreshadowing knowledge he has, beats me! Cut to years later, and Javier runs a small publishing house reserved for quality writers. He has just broken up with yet another unsuspecting woman; as usual, she has not seen it coming. It all ends with a drink being chucked in his face. Back at work, his employees and best friend listen to his warped philosophy on love and commitment. His publishing venture is down in the dumps because none of his acquisitions is selling. He is advised to represent commercial writers to sustain but he pays no heed. Javier banks on a waning literary great who’s struggling, instead. On one drunken night, Lucia (Silvia Alonso) and Javier share an inadvertent kiss. The former is his best friend’s girlfriend, and the two can’t seem to stand the sight of each other. But strange as it, their first kiss reveals more than he can possibly handle.
There are some predictably heartfelt moments as Love at First Kiss winds down, though that isn’t enough for the film to make it to the above-average territory. It would have made more sense for Alauda Ruiz de Azúa & Co. to present this story as a pure romantic drama with an altered premise. There is no room for comedy here, if you think about it. What disappoints in its brand of drama is that it has nothing of note to say. Javier is a cocksure, know-it-all in each aspect of his personal and professional life. It takes a couple of women to make him change his ways and realise he may have it all wrong. Does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Álvaro Cervantes was exceedingly good in The Time It Takes (El tiempo que te doy). Now that was a deep romantic drama series that was sensitive, intense and bittersweet…things Love at First Kiss aspires to be. The film is quite muddled in its messaging. The narrative is presented as a light romantic comedy, but with a serious dearth of humour and lots of complicated relationships and love problems (and talk), it is anything but.
The writing is, by far, the most disappointing part of Love at First Kiss. From the poorly conceived premise to the hackneyed, predictable storytelling, Cristóbal Garrido and Adolfo Valor’s screenplay is entirely to blame. Falling for your best friend’s girlfriend as a trope? This has to be getting stale, surely? As soon as Javier meets Ariana, the quirky performance artist and part-time bartender, you know which way the film is headed. His prophesising philosophy of lip-locking goes for a toss when they decide to carry out a social experiment. With the acting being on point in a subpar script, you feel the actors were hard done by. Intelligent writing and plausible character arcs were the order of the day. For the primary cast of Álvaro Cervantes, Silvia Alonso, Susana Abaitua and Gorka Otxoa, it was sadly not to be! The sequences between Javier and the ageing literary star struggling with writer’s block and mental health issues brim with potential. These scenes provide a window into the protagonist’s perfectionist mindset, a flaw that pervades other aspects of his discordant life.