27 Sep 2023

Review: Love At First Sight

From At The Movies, 7:30 pm on 27 September 2023

Love at First Sight - like Snakes on a Plane and Ruby Gillman Teenage Kraken - is one of those titles in which the entire storyline is mapped out in a four-word title.

It also describes the appeal of its star, Haley Lu Richardson, when I first saw her in a comedy-drama called Support the Girls with Regina Hall.

Haley Lu Richardson

Haley Lu Richardson Photo: Netflix

Sweet, upbeat, vulnerable, a bit dim maybe - Haley Lu was that out-of-fashion thing these days, the all-American girl next door. She later took those attributes to the highly successful TV series The White Lotus. 

Love at First Sight clearly aspires to that show’s sophistication with its slightly gimmicky narration.

Haley Lu Richardson plays American Hadley, while Ben Hardy is English Oliver. Hardy’s best known for playing Queen drummer Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody.  

The narrator – she also plays an assortment of bit parts - is Jameela Jamil from another smart TV series The Good Place. 

So, lots of good pedigree, and Love at First Sight starts out with a certain amount of promise.   I mean, if the girl meets the boy in the first minute or so, it must be going somewhere unexpected after that, right?

And while we wait, we can’t deny it’s nice to see these two being effortlessly charming as they meet at JFK Airport bound for England.

Hadley’s father has already fallen in love at first sight, if not in a good way. While working in England, he fell for a colleague, divorced Hadley’s Mum and now is about to get married again.

So why’s Oliver going back home, she wonders?

Well, keep on wondering or there’ll be no plot at all in Love at First Sight, rather than the bare minimum there currently is.    

Because there seems to be nothing to get in the way of their instant attraction, you’d think.

And the writer/director team – their names, predictably are Katie, Jennifer and Vanessa – belatedly realise they need to throw in a few hurdles. What could go wrong at Heathrow Airport, for instance?

Well, Hadley loses Oliver’s details at the very moment that Oliver gets into trouble with airport security, and they both dash off in opposite directions.

But don’t worry – if you were worrying. The odds, as narrator Jameela keeps telling us, and Oliver keeps backing it up, may be against this cheesey romcom reaching its happy ending.  

But it would take a heart far harder than those of Katie, Jennifer and Vanessa to shatter the dreams of anyone played by Haley Lu Richardson.

The target audience for something called of Love at First Sight would probably be perfectly happy watching these two flirting for the entire movie. 

But even they have to admit that some complications are needed for the story to reach a conclusion.  

This is where parents are so helpful. Come in, Oliver’s adorably ailing mum, played with a stiff upper lip by the always useful Sally Phillips.

Meanwhile the slightly less fortunate Hadley is given a father played by the eternally wooden Rob Delaney.  

If I’ve given the impression that Love at First Sight is a brilliantly unpredictable gem, weaving a magical tale full of surprises and delights then I’m sorry, I’ve misled you.

It’s none of those things, though in the hands of a better, less sentimental film-maker it could have been a bit like that perhaps.

But Haley Lu Richardson makes up for a multitude of sins, and she and Ben Hardy make a couple it’s impossible to be unkind about. It’s on Netflix, and it’s the perfect sort of film to watch if you’re in bed with a bad cold.  

Mind you, the odds against me liking it if I hadn’t already been softened up by Haley Lu a few years ago are probably astronomical.

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