The latest Netflix romantic drama, Love At First Sight, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?
When you are in a rut, a dry spell, a slump, or have a bad case of the yips, sometimes the best thing to do is go back to basics. Start from a place of prior success, analyze it, and utilize its framework as a path forward.
For the past couple years, the Netflix Original Rom-Com (or its more dour cousin, The Dramedy) has been in quite the slump. Just this year alone, we have seen Your Place or Mine, A Tourist’s Guide To Love, The Perfect Find, & Happiness For Beginners fail to pass muster with critics and lack the rewatchable bliss of their films that owned the genre just 5 years ago.
So, with their latest venture into the genre, Netflix took the advice and went back to basics. For starters, they enlisted Ace Entertainment and their producer/CEO Matthew Kaplan. The former President of Awesomeness Films produced the first two To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before films AND The Perfect Date for Netflix and served as Executive Producer for the To All The Boys TV spin-off XO, Kitty.
With Kaplan in tow as a familiar backbone, they kept following the pattern of past victories with adapting a popular YA novel and having a successful YA film screenwriter pen the script. Based on the beloved 2013 book “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” by author Jennifer E. Smith, Love At First Sight is written by the absolutely delightful Katie Lovejoy who struck gold with her first produced film screenplay for To All The Boys: Always and Forever. Add in “Little Women” mini-series director Vanessa Caswill to helm the project and VIOLA, you have successfully raised the floor and given yourself a higher probability *wink* at rom-dramedy success.
All that’s left is story and *GULP* execution.
As for the story, the film follows two university students, Hadley Sullivan & Oliver Jones, as they begin to fall for each other on their flight from New York to London. But as the chaos of a London airport, a perpetually dying cell phone, & previous engagements on opposite sides of the city start to turn the odds of reuniting against them, love – and a little London magic – may have a way of defying the odds.
Love at First Sight features an exceptionally deep cast featuring Edge of Seventeen & White Lotus standout Haley Lu Richardson as Hadley and X-Men: Apocalypse & Netflix’s 6 Underground star Ben Hardy as Oliver. The film also stars Catastrophe star & former Twitter lord Rob Delaney, Bridget Jones co-star Sally Phillips, actor/director Dexter Fletcher, and The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil as the chameleon-like narrator.
Despite the film’s talent in front of and behind the camera & its notable source material, I still had very little hope that this story would be the one to get fans of the genre and the Netflix faithful to reignite their passions once again after such a drought. However, much like in the film, sometimes you have to ignore the odds, take a chance, and be surprised.
Love at First Sight is a charming, yet heartstring pulling story that feels as lived in as Haley Lu’s airplane cardigan attire. The chemistry between Richardson & Hardy will make you forget how magically improbable certain parts of their budding romance are or how quickly things come together. Director Vanessa Caswill never rushes a moment between them as the film stays at cruising pace for much of its duration. Choices in mood & tempo such as these allow for a deeper, more realistic bond between its characters and the beautiful, bittersweet moments that transpire further into the London storyline.
What elevates Love at First Sight (sorry, but I wish they kept the original book title) from becoming yet another forgettable streaming love story is that it gives itself permission to detour into humanity in the 2nd Act before it reconciles its core relationship in its final moments.
To quote “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (a play that happens to be read by the Narrator in the early airport scenes), “the course of true love never did run smooth” and this story is full of deeply emotional complexities. What is surprising is that those complexities also bring us most of the more interesting & compelling scenes in the whole movie.
Oliver’s more tragic yet eccentric family situation brings the audience closer as it draws Hadley closer in kind. Oliver’s numbers-driven worldview is challenged by his mother’s health and her choice to deal with it on her terms. We are also treated to one of the best depictions of long-term devotion in Oliver’s parents played masterfully by Sally Phillips & Dexter Fletcher.
So much of the story and its key takeaways are brought back to the core tenet of Hadley’s outlook on love & relationships: someone to hold your hand through life. Oliver’s parents have each other even when the light gets dark. Oliver has Hadley to guide him through his family’s impending heartbreak and Hadley has Oliver to guide her through her complicated feelings after her parents’ divorce and new marriage. It’s a simple, relatable theme that makes the story worth watching.
Overall, Love at First Sight is less about one true love and more about what love can give us as we navigate our lives. A well paced, well cared for film that never loses sight of what truly matters. It’s not flashy or busy like most streaming rom-coms and that’s a good thing. Quality casting gives birth to great chemistry and deeply rooted characters. Easily the best love story for Netflix in 2023.
Watch Love at First Sight If You Like
- To All The Boys Series
- The Half of It
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- The Edge of Seventeen
- Five Feet Apart
- Love Actually
MVP of Love at First Sight
Haley Lu Richardson as Hadley Sullivan
Now ten years after her big break as a Disney Channel & ABC Family star, Haley Lu Richardson has proven she can do anything she desires. From franchise horror (Split) to indie darlings (Columbus, Support the Girls), Richardson is a consistent delight on screen with well-developed range and genuine likeability. As Executive Producer and lead of this film, she moves into a new class of star that can move her career in any direction she chooses. With her performance as Hadley, she impresses once again as she quickly develops an on-screen chemistry with Oliver that survives a twisty, emotional, & mostly separated 2nd act. I hope she more in store for us all very soon.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?
Full of life, love, & charm, Love at First Sight blends great chemistry with a warm, relatable, & simple romance. Bring the tissues.