James C Strouse’s romantic drama Love Again starts as a guide to dealing with the sudden loss of your loved one. A restaurant owner in New York City tells a crestfallen Mira Ray (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) to start conversing with her dead boyfriend. “Just because they are gone from our lives forever, it doesn’t mean we should stop expressing our feelings to them,” he says.
Mira, an illustrator who makes caterpillar books for children, is still recovering from the shock of seeing her boyfriend, John, run over by a drunk driver. It’s been two years since the accident, and Mira finds talking to John an interesting coping strategy. So she starts texting John’s number, which is reassigned to the work phone of Rob (Sam Heughan), a music critic at the New York Chronicle. A naturally confused Rob decides to find the person behind the mysterious texts.
Love Again believes that love is the most precious thing in the world. But does the film make us feel it? Not really. A remake of the German film SMS fur Dich - based on Sofie Cramer’s novel by the same - Love Again is a syrupy romance that needed better execution to overshadow its predictability.
The film’s start is quite shaky. Mira’s rapport with her younger sister Suzy (Sofia Barclay) appears stagey. Suzy comes across as more pushy than understanding when she forces Mira to get on a dating app and move on. Suzy is blind to the fact that Mira wants to take it slow and look for an organic relationship.
Mira finds a match on Bumble and is forced to meet the man for dinner by Suzy. However, the date (a poorly-staged sequence) goes wrong as the guy (essayed by singer and Priyanka’s husband Nick Jonas) turns out to be a gym freak. He is more interested in burning calories by having sex than having casual, fun conversations, as per Mira’s interests.
Love Again (English)
From being all over the place, Love Again settles down a bit and gives us likeable moments. Rob’s confusion about the strange texts is funny. A couple of coincidental incidents make him realise Mira is the stranger sending him heartrending messages. He courts her without telling the truth. It’s easy to guess that this lie will wreck the romance later. Before we get to the predictable conflict, the couple’s initial hesitancy to open up to each other is convincing. Both have a funny bone and bond over a love for sneakers and putting fries on burgers.
Unlike Mira, who confesses her new-found love to John via texts, Rob has a love guru in Celine Dion, the ‘Queen of Power Ballads’ who plays herself. Rob’s big assignment is to interview Celine, who is on an American tour, quite some time after the death of her husband, Rene Angelil, to cancer.
Celine’s imposing presence with sharp sarcasm is the film’s biggest plus. During their meetings, she challenges Rob’s pessimistic take on love. As he struggles to get over his broken engagement, Rob is told to “be courageous and believe that love has a plan for everyone” by Celine.
These portions can’t save the film from its problems. Love Again doesn’t care to explore the respective personality of its leads. Rob is a basketball fan, and Mira is a gifted illustrator. But beyond these cursory details, we aren’t told anything that makes us curious about them. Delving into their pasts would have made us root for them strongly than we do.
It doesn’t help that the romance is far from sizzling. Strouse’s hurried filmmaking dents the on-screen chemistry between the leads. Priyanka has a strong presence, but she doesn’t go all-out in her performance. Heughan, who shines in the humorous portions, fails to portray the vulnerability required for the character.
The film thankfully avoids melodramatic cliches, yet the romance isn’t strong enough to put your teeth into it. Love Again ends by telling us to work through our relationships. If you want conviction over mere heartening thoughts, there are many romantic dramas where two heartbroken souls find love again.
Love Again is currently running in theatres