There is a cinematic gold standard against which all rom-coms about best friends who turn lovers (after years of missed buses and miscommunication) will be judged. That lodestar of love is the 1989 classic When Harry Met Sally, a sophisticated, genuinely funny romantic comedy that was blessed by a sizzling screenplay (from Nora Ephron) and enormous artistic talent in the form of its lead stars (Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal).
Let’s just say this upfront: Love, Rosie, which tracks the fitful, never-quite-articulated love interest between childhood sweethearts Rosie and Alex over a decade and more, is at best a poor man’s When Harry Met Sally. Cecilia Ahern was just 23 when she wrote Where Rainbows End, the best-selling novel on which the film is based; the limitations of her worldview, and her relative inexperience in fleshing out the nuances when it comes to matters of the heart, are palpably evident.
Alex and Rosie, while still likeable, stumble through their friendship and eventual courtship with only a shadow of the sizzle that Harry and Sally brought to bear.
But that said, Love, Rosie sparkles with fresh-faced, even if occasionally adolescent, innocence. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this syrupy-sweet rom-com with a twist endeavours valiantly to tug at viewers’ heartstrings. And despite the jarring plotline contrivances injected to infuse melodrama, it manages to validate the redemptive power of love, however muddled that voyage of discovery may be.
Best friends through school, Alex and Rosie share an alcohol-laced kiss on her 18th birthday, but since she was drunk and can’t quite remember what happened that night, it doesn’t count. In any case, their British reserve won’t allow them to acknowledge the romantic/sexual chemistry between them. They plan to move from England to Boston to study, but while he jets away, she is compelled to stay behind (owing to a broken condom, and the rigidities of Catholicism: I shall say no more).
Will their true love get another chance? Over the next decade, it does, several times over, but their timing is all wrong. Each of them gets hitched to the wrong person for all the wrong reasons, and on the rare occasion that either of them acknowledges their fondness for the other, a ghost in the love machine pulls the plug. The final denouement is predictable, of course, but in a sense it was always written in the stars.
Given the limitations of the script, a fair bit of the heavy lifting is left to Lily Collins (as Rosie) and Sam Claflin (as Alex).
Their on-screen chemistry is endearing even when their romance is faltering, and in the end, they bring it home. No love is perfect, of course, and not all lovers get it always right. In their own bumbling way, Alex and Rosie, however, do their bit to reinforce a broader faith in love.