MOVIE "Love at First Sight"
WHERE Streaming on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT There should be no great mysteries about what happens in "Love at First Sight," the new Netflix romance. To quote the great Avril Lavigne: "He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?"
The boy is Oliver (Ben Hardy). The girl is Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson). They're both flying from New York to London. In his case, it's to participate in a living memorial for his mother, who has advanced cancer. She has got to attend her estranged father's wedding.
They meet at Kennedy Airport when she misses her earlier flight and he offers her a phone charger. Their spark grows in a place that the movie imagines as a magical portal between here and there, where anything might happen. That's a depiction many New Yorkers might take issue with, but we digress.
A broken seat belt brings them together onboard, a fate that appears to have been magically assured by the movie's narrator (Jameela Jamil), who turns up on screen in various disguises whenever Oliver and Hadley need a little shove toward their destiny.
An adaptation of the YA novel "The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight," by Jennifer E. Smith, the movie throws out a whole mess of statistics about the odds of falling in love in this way, the probability that such a relationship could last and more.
It's directed by Vanessa Caswill, who previously helmed the 2017 BBC miniseries adaptation of "Little Women."
MY SAY When "Love at First Sight" transcends the ordinary, it does so largely because of Richardson, a wonderful actor with charisma and real screen presence who was last seen on "The White Lotus" (as Portia, the overwhelmed personal assistant of Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya).
She knows how to take an underwritten part and make a compelling character out of it, often simply by just being silent, and letting her expressions and reactions tell the story.
Hardy has a more difficult time: Oliver is mostly presented as stiff and mopey. Even though the reasons for this are understandable, given the cause of his trip home, it becomes hard to particularly care about his plight.
Still, the movie gets the look exactly right, with beautiful saturated colors and moments of genuine unspoken longing. Even the hardest of hearts would have a tough time not being a little bit moved by the notion of the fates aligning, and a missed flight and broken seat belt changing two lives forever.
It's a shame that the fundamentally solid premise could not be trusted to sustain itself, and instead had to be dressed up with heaps of unneeded whimsy.
The constant blabbering about made-up statistics adds precious little to the story.
The living memorial itself features a bunch of people dressed in Shakespearean garb, doing monologues and other performances, in what becomes less of a heart-rending moment than a nightmare of British actorly clichés.
Speaking of cliches: we all know that sometimes less is more. We've heard it a million times. But that doesn't mean it's not true.
BOTTOM LINE Richardson almost makes it work.