Love at First Sight: Choosing Love

The balancing act of a romantic comedy is complicated. You have to present love in a genuine way, while still making it larger than life. Capture the power of love, while remaining practical enough for each person to relate to it. Manage the fantasy of the romantic and the heartbreak of the cynic. Always teetering on the edge of “too much” in whatever variation the viewer feels it applies in that instant. Tasks that all seem impossible, and for plenty of rom coms they are. But the good ones usually overcome these challenges and find this balance through earnestness. By leaning into the inherent “cheesy” of the genre, is an opportunity for authenticity, genuine reflection of character, experiences and moments. Love can feel overwhelming. It can be all encompassing. It can take your breath away, as is the case in Vanessa Caswill’s new Netflix film, Love at First Sight. 

There was a stretch of time when the romantic comedy became self-aware. A way to subvert the genre, comment on it and reflect the times. Some self-awareness is great, and great movies came from it. However, too much can alienate an audience. Great rom coms inspire, while accepting the improbable. That in of itself is a reflection of the experience. Love at First Sight captures all of these elements. The all encompassing opportunity of love, done so with just a twinge of self-awareness and a boatload of earnestness. That’s why it works.

It leans into its near fantastical view of love. The bright colors, almost dreamlike presentation, recurring actors as different characters, even the meet cute and concept of the film all lean into it. One would not find it hard to roll their eyes at this film, but it’s not concerned with that. Because it aims for you to give yourself over to it. Once you do, its charm, sweetness and earnestness engulf you. 

Whether or not the film is “good” is largely irrelevant because its aim is more impactful and simpler. The better metric is that of effectiveness, and in that, Love At First Sight easily clears the bar. Making its intentions known very early with Jameela Jamil’s narration, this is a movie that believes in the fantastical romance of love. From there the movie continually leans into it. Starting with a meet cute that is practical enough to be both believable and a good story, we see clearly that the film’s intention is earnest.

As unlikely as it is for two characters who perfectly oppose each other to meet and subsequently fall in love, it’s still possible. And that possibility is intriguing and where this film lives. But what is it that makes all of this earnestness work? There is the right amount of self-awareness, and that allows for us to be more willing to accept some of the events in the film. 

Love at First Sight is a movie that really believes in love, but it also has a practicality holding everything together. Characters acknowledge their unlikely situation, they go through genuine struggles and they carry enough skepticism for it to feel real even in the face of such an unlikely situation. It’s the true beauty of this film. All throughout the characters face real reasons to choose against the film’s central theme, and they choose love every time. When a character has to make a decision and either option is reasonable or understandable, it then creates and/or strengthens the connection with the viewer.

In the case of this film, we’re rooting for them to choose love. This drives home the good feeling that comes across in the first few minutes. It heightens all the emotions because we want them to choose each other, so the improbability and predictability of it doesn’t matter. Seeing them together feels good, and that all comes from them having good reasons to not be together and choosing each other anyway. 

All good rom coms need an effective central romance. Good chemistry covers a multitude of mistakes. This also happens to be where most rom coms fail. Love at First Sight becomes the exception, because Hadley and Oliver work. Simply put, they are cute together. However, that’s not enough to power a film. Haley Lu Richardson is perfect casting. This choice is the single best choice made by everyone involved with this film. Not only is she an incredible actress and a star, she’s very likable.

Instantly, Hadley is believable and thus everything she experiences and feels is as well. This comes from Richardson’s inherent charm. You want good things for her, and you also feel everything she feels, which makes you want those good things even more. Alongside her Ben Hardy keeps pace with Richardson and is charming enough in his own right. But the power is their chemistry. Watching them fall in love is sweet, but also genuine. The casual glances, sly smiles and light jokes are cute to see and feel real. That is imperative to this story and those two make it work, very well. 

Love at First Sight isn’t the best romcom you’ll see, but it is quite good. It captures the feel good this genre can bring. Ultimately, what more can you ask for? It’s sweet, charming and earnest and that’s why it works. It allows you to believe in the unlikeliness of love, and the beauty that can be found there. For that it’s certainly worth your time.

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