Review: Can feelings be rekindled? Coincidence brings two people together to find out in ‘She Is Love’

Image via Bright Iris Films
Image via Bright Iris Films

Selected for the London Film Festival in 2022, She Is Love brings together Sam Riley (Rebecca) and Haley Bennett (Magazine Dreams) in a Cornish country house as an estranged couple.  

Written and directed by Jamie Adams, She Is Love explores rekindled relationships, lays to rest emotional baggage, and reminds audiences that sometimes people from the past should never be forgotten. Over a tight running time, this film trades in the emotional currency of two people, who re-connect unexpectedly after being divorced for ten years. 

Patricia (Bennett) is flying over to England from America on business, and the boutique hotel her partner has booked happens to be owned by Idris (Sam Riley). Surrounded by the idyllic Cornish countryside and opulently isolated – she succumbs to jet lag almost immediately, and retires to get some shuteye.  

Hidden beneath the covers, having been greeted by Louise (Marisa Abela) and shown upstairs, Patricia is roused by pounding dance music from downstairs. Through a door leading off from the hallway Idris is lost in music, dancing behind his DJ desks wearing headphones. Rake thin, unshaven, but inherently healthy despite appearances – he spies Patricia framed in the entrance and freezes.  

There is a glimmer of recognition as the cosmic coincidence of this occasion hits home, before she walks swiftly back upstairs with an intrigued Idris in hot pursuit. So begins a gentle game of re-acquaintance, as these erstwhile divorcees tiptoe around each other and remember everything they loved and loathed in equal measure.  

From that point on the film revolves around them, with occasional segues to include minor supporting players in this two-handed character study. Any initial dramatic friction comes from awkward scenes shared between Idris, Patricia, and Louise – since it quickly becomes clear that his new girlfriend Louise feels threatened by this old flame.  

Although the film is quite dialogue-heavy and leans on this central trio, any confrontational scenes either lack backbone or devolve into melodrama. These moments are also hindered by a lack of character development for Louise; she may be an aspiring actress out on auditions, but audiences learn precious little beyond that.  

Adams prefers to lavish all his attention on Idris and Patricia, who spend large chunks of time spouting nostalgic verbiage and rekindling old attractions. Their initial meeting, that first spark of physical interest, and emotional beats across the years of their relationship are all explored. In fact, by the time audiences reach that 30-minute mark in this 80-minute movie, Louise and her sister Kate (Rosa Robson) are little more than dramatic window dressing. 

As Patricia and Idris get drunk and wander around this vast country pile playing dress-up, Louise remains in her room running lines and looking sullen. Predictably, their alcoholic cavorting soon turns to recrimination when Idris foolishly reveals his plans to become a father – but at that point She Is Love has already begun to lose momentum.  

Limited by location and lacking any ability to expand the characters beyond their shared memories, this film suddenly goes into stasis as the cast resort to full blown melodrama. Poignancy is replaced by emotional meltdowns, subtle moments of pathos get condensed down to floods of tears, while plot wise characters tread water. 

If there is one fundamental problem above all, then a lack of story would be it. Beyond the pivotal point of these two long lost love interests coming together, She Is Love is surprisingly thin in the plot department. Whether those limitations were self-imposed due to budgetary constraints, or if these actors were only available for a limited time – the fact remains that things suffer as a result.  

As much as Riley and Bennett try their best to squeeze something inspired from the material, it become apparent early on that they are reaching. Conversations go round in circles, segues between scenes feel almost theatrical in their construction, and both actors really struggle to establish a chemistry. Only the original score from Chris Hyson elevates this film, as he draws real emotional connection from his classical compositions.

From an audience perspective She Is Love might also feel overly long, even at 80 minutes minus the credits. At best, this idea could and should have been broken down into adjoining short films, rather than trying to be stretched into a feature-length endeavor. Had Adams trimmed off 20 minutes to bring it in at a solid hour, then this could have turned out to be a tightly scripted two-hander instead. 

Can feelings be rekindled, as coincidence brings two people back together in 'She Is Love'

Lacking in substance and leaning into melodrama, 'She Is Love' finds Sam Riley and Haley Bennett struggling to make this tried and tested formula work. Writer and director Jamie Adams tries to make too little go a long way, which makes the viewing experience almost tedious at times.