If you are a devotee of time travel...

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Love at First Sight: Romance, Sprinkled with a Little Fantasy and Philosophy

Hey, I don't usually review romantic comedies -- or dramas -- but Love at First Sight has both of that, and even a touch of fantasy and philosophy, so the 90-minute movie on Netflix was not only well worth watching but reviewing.

The set-up is charming: Hadley Sullivan and Oliver Jones meet on flight from New York to London, fall in love in the air, but are accidentally separated at Heathrow.  Hadley's phone is dead, and, of course, in this day and age, neither thought to write any contact info down on a piece of paper, so the love they found on the flight may have flown (sorry) before it was declared or got anywhere.

Fortunately, here's where the bit of fantasy comes in.  A stewardess on the plane sees what's going on, and shows up at crucial moments in London, looking slightly the same and seeking to make sure the couple find each other.  Her voice also narrates the story, and in fact her name in the credits is Narrator.

There's even some science in this story, though it's far from science fiction.  Oliver has dealt with the fears and troubles in his life by citing numbers and statistically probable outcomes in every situation.  Hadley is more of a wordsmith.  So Love at First Sight is also a story of math and  poetry.  And if you think about it, math has a powerful poetry to it, and rhymes -- which I always think of as a velcro of the mind -- are a kind of mathematics of sound.  (Rhymes, by the way, were the way people remembered things before there was writing and reading and eventually smartphones.)

The acting in the movie is excellent.  First time I've seen Haley Lu Richardson (Hadley) and Ben Hardy (Oliver) on the screen -- my mistake, Hardy was in a 2017 move about Mary Shelley, for God's sake, and I intend to see that as well catch up with some of Richardson's work.  And Jameela Jamil was good as the Narrator/Guardian Angel, too.

The Narrator also delivers a crucial lesson about fate. If something is truly bound to happen, if a couple is destined to get together, will it happen whatever the obstacles and unexpected setbacks that may arise, regardless of what each member of the couple does? This notion of fate is also captured in the Yiddish word bashert and the Arabic kismet. All three -- fate, bashert, and kismet -- are connected to Tennyson's line, “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," though in the movie that sentiment is taken from the question “Is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never have had it?” posed in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend. (Hadley is a devotee of Dickens.) In any case, Tennyson is right, and the correct answer to Dickens' question of course is "better to have a had good thing and lost it." Though, hopeless romantic that I am, I'd say a far better answer still is having a good thing and keeping it forever. 

And I won't say any more about the plot because I didn't warn you about spoilers -- do spoilers matter in comedy dramas? -- except to tell you that the comedy is funny and the drama in Love at First Sight will bring a tear or more to your eye.

I'll add as a postscript, however, that I think the title of the movie is a little trite. The movie was made from the best selling novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, and that would have made a far more accurate and provocative title for the movie.


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