Love at First Sight 2023 Movie Review
Let me put it this way: Netflix’s latest rom-com, Love at First Sight, took my 4/10 kind of day to a solid 6.5/10. That is me basically saying that the film, which I started watching only for work with less than the bare minimum expectation, made me feel good. There is a severe lack of good romantic comedies these days, which is particularly sad given the chaotic, misery-filled world we live in demands feel-good distractions. And the ones that Netflix churns out every now and then are mostly atrocities in the name of cinema. That is why I would compare coming across Love at First Sight to finding a needle in the haystack.
Amongst the movie genres, romantic comedy is probably the one that is sneered at the most by “Cinephiles.” This doesn’t make any sense to me, considering I have always been an admirer of both Richard Curtis and John Carney. While the former is the reason I have always admired this genre, the latter is most definitely my favorite working-director in the genre. The story of Love at First Sight is not quite a novel one, but that is never a mandatory thing for a romantic comedy. The film’s central plot, in fact, seemed like it’s been borrowed from Carney’s Strangers On A (Dublin) Train (2021), which was a part of the Prime Video series Modern Love, which was developed by Carney himself. Just like that episode of Modern Love, the boy and the girl meet while they are traveling. They click instantly, but as fate would have it, they get separated at the end of the journey. However, the train has been replaced by a flight here, and with the world back to normal (Carney had his story set during the pandemic), finding a person didn’t prove to be much of a difficulty, especially with social media and Google Maps at your disposal.
I also liked that Love at First Sight does feel a lot like a Richard Curtis film. It has a London setting working in its favor; the frames look beautiful and serene; wonderful music seeps through the narrative; and there is even a wedding and a very interesting funeral. Most importantly, there are tons of swoon-worthy moments between our two main players, Hadley and Oliver. The American girl is boarding a London-bound flight to attend her father’s second marriage, which has put her in a spot of bother, and the English boy is going back to attend his mother’s funeral. The girl is a Charles Dickens lover and mayonnaise hater, and the boy happens to be a huge mathematics nerd who keeps bringing up probability and statistics in everything he says. On paper, it all seems quite unremarkable and like something that you have seen countless times before, but thanks to the way things are presented here, you happily get on board with the journey of these two fictional people.
Haley Lu Richardson, a talented actress with a very interesting filmography that ranges from director Kogonada’s acclaimed Indie mood piece like Columbus (2017) to HBO’s prestige drama-satire The White Lotus (2021–present), plays the clumsy Hadley, who is always running late. Richardson is a good actress who always understands the assignment, and here, too, she doesn’t disappoint. However, it is Ben Hardy, whose most prominent roles are Archangel from X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and the legendary Queen drummer Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), who truly impressed. As a young man beguiled by this girl he happens to come across on a flight, Hardy holds Oliver to his chest and plays the part with a lot of nuance, intrigue, and sensitivity. But he is also fantastic in all the scenes where the character is vulnerable.
Love at First Sight also does justice to its supporting characters, especially Hadley’s father, Andrew, who is played by actor Rob Delaney. What I thought was particularly praiseworthy was the choice not to make Delaney’s character a bad father who just gets a divorce and remarries a witchy stock character. The importance of getting out of relationships that are not working and trying your hand at love again is subtly promoted here with the character arc of Hadley’s father, which was a riveting thing to see in a movie like this. Not to mention, the woman Andrew marries in the movie appears to be genuinely happy about meeting Hadley.
However, nothing in a romantic comedy can happen without some divine intervention or crazy good luck; in this one, that happens to be a person. The Good Place breakout Jameela Jamil, whose talent was terribly wasted in She-Hulk: Attorney of Law last year, plays that part, and she is truly wonderful here. Thanks to Jamil’s performance, the director’s decision to use this extremely dated trope of a “godlike” person randomly appearing as an air hostess or a bus driver only to help the central couple find each other actually works out. Of course, that wouldn’t have mattered if the lead pair of Love at First Sight didn’t have truly adorable chemistry. It would be blasphemous not to mention director Venessa Caswill’s name, who has made her feature debut with this adorable movie. With a first feature like this one, I expect more goodies from the director, who is already quite a name thanks to her work in television.
Before having my final words, I am going to address some things where the film fell short for me. While Richardson and Hardy are fantastic together on screen, the scenes with their respective families don’t always work out and drag the proceedings a little. These are, of course, minor inconveniences and don’t really take anything away from the viewing experience, but the three stars that I am giving to Love at First Sight could have been a half more otherwise. But I really shouldn’t complain, as there is a scarcity of good rom-coms these days, and films like Love at First Sight are truly a blessing. It is that kind of film that makes you cheer for people falling in love on-screen and gives you unreasonable dreams, like meeting your soulmate on a random flight. But aren’t dreams what you need to live for?