Out of the 38 Netflix Original releases so far this month, nine of which are movies, the new Netflix romantic comedy Love at First Sight sits at the top of the pedestal as No. 1 in the top 10 movies in the U.S. The new addition to Netflix’s repertoire is an adaptation of the novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, written by Jennifer E. Smith.
The film, directed by Vanessa Caswill, depicts a coming-of-age story about Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson), an undeclared New York University student flying out to her dad’s wedding, and Oliver (Ben Hardy), a British mathematics student at Yale University. They meet after Hadley, who is chronically late, misses her flight and is stuck in the airport.
They get lunch together, talk about their lives and head to — you guessed it — the same flight. After a series of events that would only happen in a romantic comedy, they sit next to each other during the flight, share jokes, somehow find a way to synchronize their audio to watch a movie together and, in the end, almost kiss outside of the airplane bathroom. Real romantic stuff. Unfortunately, we are only at the 30-minute mark.
After a series of events that would (again) only be possible in a rom-com, they get separated. And neither has the other’s phone number, socials or last name. But, they’re supposed to be soulmates? How will they find each other? Cue the next hour and a half of the movie.
The entirety of the movie is narrated by an unnamed character portrayed by Jameela Jamil, who appears in many different roles — as a bus driver, a flight attendant and more. And, somehow, she goes through the movie unnoticed by the two main characters whom she has frequent and lengthy interactions with.
The narrator tells us from the very beginning that this is not a love story but, instead, a study of fate and statistics. Tell me a movie is trying to be cooler than it is without telling me a movie is trying to be cooler than it is. But, the Netflix genre categorization system and I both disagree. It is a love story, with statistical probabilities sprinkled on top.
The narrator also delivers the closest thing this movie has to a fatal flaw: She tells us how it ends. Sure, foreshadowing is a technique taught in many film classes. But the audience is told the ending directly, blatantly, within the first five minutes of the film.
Consequently, the movie’s attempts to add tension between the characters during the climax fail. Admittedly, when you sign up to watch a cheesy drama, especially a romantic comedy, you know it will probably end one way: the two main characters, together. But the true experience of watching a romantic comedy is to feel the butterflies, to experience falling in love with the characters and to feel a bit of uncertainty. Because of the knowledge we are spoon-fed in the very beginning, this movie doesn’t afford us that.
On a technical level, the movie has everything it needs: fair cinematography, a modern and fresh soundtrack, well-known actors and a solid fan base from its original medium. But what sets this one apart from the others? Nothing. It’s classic. Boy meets girl, they fall in love and it is all tied up with a kiss. The end.
That’s what I thought. See, I’ve watched most, if not all, of Netflix’s romance catalog (yes, I have a problem, but we can talk about it later). Each of the movies I have watched is inconsequential. Scenes mix in my mind, one movie becomes another and soon they are all just frames and moments without a name. But in all of those, there have been a few that have left me more hopeful, more prone to believing in love.
I’m not just talking about a relationship with a significant other. This movie portrays Hadley’s complicated relationship with her father as she finally faces questions left over from the divorce of her parents. Oliver silently battles with the impending loss of his mother and questions his ability to handle the unfairness and unpredictability of love.
The question then becomes: Would I recommend this?
Yes, but only under certain conditions. If you are looking for an incredibly deep and introspective movie that makes you question your existence, don’t watch this. Interstellar, Good Will Hunting or even Barbie might be better options. But if you are looking for an easy-going, might-have-you-shedding-a-few-tears, feel-good movie, then this movie might just be the one for you.
Love at First Sight is in no way a breakthrough for cinema, but it is better than average. And for a Netflix contemporary rom-com? That’s a win.