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.
Finding your soul mate is the thing the movies tell us is one of everyone’s life goals, the event that will ensure a life of bliss and happiness. The medium has been selling us this brand of soap since the silent-movie-days and the reason it endures is we want to believe this fairy tale. I think these films also help us realize just how lucky those of us are who have found someone who’s decided to shoulder the burdens of life with and can still stand us even after we’ve given up trying to hide our foibles.
So, the romance continues to be a viable genre and just like any other well-worn formula, there’s a struggle to find a way to breathe new life into it. I’m happy to report that Vanessa Caswell manages to do just that with “Love at First Sight.” An adaptation of the novel by Jennifer E. Smith, there are more than a few overt fairy tale elements sprinkled throughout, simultaneously making light of the genre while contributing a bit of much needed levity and charm. That we like the two leads certainly helps.
The title of the source material is “The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love” and the screenplay by Katie Lovejoy uses numbers, ratios, and other mathematical conceits throughout. For example, we’re told right off that the heroine in question, Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson), is late 21% of the time, which happens to be how much life she has left on her phone, which she has in her hand as she arrives four minutes tardy to her flight to London.
This information, and other stats like it, are dispensed by actress Jameela Jamil, who pops up in various guises – flight attendant, bus driver, customs agent – throughout the film. She’s billed as “the narrator,” but really, she’s a fairy godmother of sorts, nudging the couple in question towards one another when they begin to veer from fate’s path. She’s charming throughout and once you understand the conceit, you end up looking forward to just when she’ll appear next.
The other member of the fated couple is Oliver (Ben Hardy), a student at Yale whose specialty is – ta da – statistics. Seems his mother was diagnosed with cancer when he was a pre-teen, a surprise that sent him down the number-crunching path so that he might be more ready to predict unexpected events such as that. He and Hadley meet while waiting for the flight they will now share because she was late. And though they are seated in different classes on the plane, a broken seat belt on his chair causes Oliver to be moved to the business section where he is placed next to…well, you know who.
While the tone overall is lighthearted, each of the main characters are dealing with serious issues. Having left her mother and her behind for a job in London, Hadley is mad at her father and is more than a bit resentful that he’s asked her to be part of the wedding. On the flip side, Oliver has come home to attend a living memorial for his mother, who has only six months to live, what with her cancer having returned. These relationships serve as emotional sounding boards for each as they ponder just how to approach their odd romance.
Equal measures fun and poignant, “Love” cures rom-com fatigue by simultaneously poking fun at and embracing the elements of the genre. The finale, though expected, doesn’t come off as cheap, but well-earned. All involved embrace the romance of the situation, and the film is better for it.
3 1/2 Stars