Romantic comedies take more than their fair share of beatings from critics, who typically gripe about saccharine plots, thin characters and potentially hazardous amounts of schmaltz. There’s such a bias toward romcoms that most audiences outside of teenage girls tend to avoid them like the plague – and some films, like last year’s Blended, show that maybe there’s a good reason for that. But then comes along a film like Love, Rosie to prove that not every “chick flick” has to feel like pulling teeth.
You may not have heard of Love, Rosie. It features two sought-after Hollywood stars – Lily Collins of the now-stalled Mortal Instruments franchise, and Sam Claflin of the record-breaking Hunger Games franchise – yet received a tiny February release with little to no publicity, a surefire sign that execs aren’t holding their breath for sizeable returns. One has to wonder why its distributor isn’t trying harder to attract young audiences. After all, coming off a year that unleashed such noxious trash as Sex Tape and The Other Woman, there’s a lot to appreciate about a romantic comedy that’s both romantic and genuinely funny, which this often is.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. The film utilizes many of the same tropes that boil some critics’ blood, and it’s more than a little overlong. Still, give it a chance, and Love, Rosie might surprise you. This is a movie that wants to make you feel good inside, an easygoing crowd-pleaser led by two appealing actors but also one with atypically high ambitions.
Our heroine is that most familiar of romcom characters: a girl in love with a boy, although she doesn’t realize the depth of that affection until life is already driving them apart. Since age 5, Rosie (Collins) and Alex (Claflin) have been best friends. They go well together, supporting one another through thick and thin, each understanding the other better than anyone else in their lives. Outside of a drunken kiss at Rosie’s 18th birthday party, the pair stay platonic, though their shared plan to flee England to attend college in Boston, Massachusetts, holds the promise of a future together.
Life, as it’s wont to, gets in the way. Rosie falls pregnant by a royal prat of a classmate (Christian Cooke) right before Alex jets off to a new life. Weeks turn into months and those months turn into years as they both battle through personal and professional obstacles. Still, they keep in touch and, time after time, the two cross paths, only to fall prey to bad timing. Have they missed out on each other for good, or does love still stand a chance?
We all know where this is going. Love, Rosie is a comedy of errors in the vein of When Harry Met Sally… and Four Weddings and a Funeral, complete with every imaginable stumbling block that could keep its leads apart, from controlling girlfriends (Tamsin Egerton and Suki Waterhouse) to unfortunate flight delays to (yes) multiple weddings and even a funeral. In the hands of less talented individuals, so much hurt and heartache would feel like a cheese grater to the forehead.
Kudos, then, are owed to director Christian Ditter and writers Cecelia Ahern and Juliette Towhidi, him for achieving a warm and cheery tone reminiscent of Richard Curtis’ better work, and Ahern and Towhidi for keeping a decades-spanning love story well plied with vim and vigor. Their script (outside of one uncomfortably R-rated moment involving handcuffs in the bedroom) is rawly, rollickingly funny. On top of that, Collins and Claflin share an affecting chemistry. Even as the roadblocks that separate them grow utterly ridiculous, their love doesn’t feel feigned for an instant.
Credit for Love, Rosie‘s success is certainly due mostly to Collins, whose impish good looks and ever-present pluck make Rosie an altogether winsome protagonist. She’s so charming here that even the film’s clunkiest lines go down smoothly. Claflin, too, humanizes Alex, doing justice to his many flaws and still keeping us on his side, even as he goes down every wrong path imaginable before arriving at the right one. They’re a strikingly likable pair of characters, the kind one could easily imagine wanting to see more of in a follow-up.
Love, Rosie is silly, slight and often overly safe, but thanks to them, and to the talents of its director and writers, it has a sweetness and a spirit to it that compensates for the cliches. If you can check your cynicism at the door, this is heartwarming, feel-good fizz – and sometimes that’s all you really need from the movies.
Cynics should steer clear, but Love, Rosie boasts two charming leads, a genuinely sweet tenor and such a warm blend of humor and heart that it could easily become a new teen favorite.