Making a film is extremely difficult. Even on the rare occasions when a script is perfect, the complications of production often mean that its potential is never fully realised, and that’s before anyone gets into the challenges posed by casting, directing and marketing.
It’s strange then that some movies give themselves additional, and seemingly avoidable, problems that the audience are required to overcome. Which brings us nicely to Love Again.
Love Again is not even on the cusp of being a memorable romantic-comedy, especially because it apparently forgot that a prerequisite of the genre is to provide laughs. There are so many flaws with its acting performances and setting that I was never given a chance to actually invest in its story and characters. Both of which are already struggling because they’re so far-fetched and dull, respectively.
An adaptation of the 2016 German film SMS fur Dich, Love Again opens with Mira Ray (Priyanka Chopra), an up-and-coming illustrator who is firmly in love with her boyfriend John (Arinze Kene), living with him in New York City. That’s until John is suddenly killed in front of her eyes. Several years later, Mira is still struggling with her grief. Encouraged by her younger sister Suzy (Sofia Barclay), Mira moves back to the Big Apple and plunges back into the world of dating.
Still in love with John, Mira starts sending romantic text messages to his old cell phone number as a coping mechanism. Mira is unaware, however, that John’s old number has been reassigned to Rob Burns's (Sam Heughan) new work phone. Having recently been dumped by his fiancee, Rob finds himself being drawn into Mira’s candid, vulnerable, and beautifully written texts.
At the same time, Rob is writing a feature profile on the singer Celine Dion. After making an impression on Dion at a press conference, and then confiding in her during a prolonged one-on-one interview, Rob decides that he wants to meet Mira in real life so that he can see whether or not he actually has real feelings for her.
While Love Again might have an outlandish plot, Heughan actually does a pretty impressive job of convincing viewers that Rob is genuinely smitten with Mira through her messages, without coming across as creepy. But that’s just about the only thing that Love Again gets right.
When Heughan and Chopra finally meet up there’s very little spark between the pair. They’re not helped by the fact that both of their characters have very little personality, with Mira’s only interesting facet of conversation being that she likes to ask people outlandish “would you rather”, questions.
Writer and director James Strouse’s script isn’t just weak when it comes to creating compelling and fascinating characters, though. There’s a complete dearth of jokes in Love Again. Lydia West and Barclay come the closest to eliciting a chortle in their supporting roles, while Dion’s acting chops are surprisingly strong. But Heughan and Chopra just don’t have the comedic skills to make the weak script shine. Especially since their intensity suggests that both think they’re in a drama, rather than a romantic-comedy.
Love Again’s biggest issue, though, is that it was obviously made in London but is set in New York. While that might not sound like too much of a problem, there’s so little to enjoy about the rest of the film that it quickly becomes distracting. More than that, most of the American characters are played by British actors, and their mid-Atlantic drawl only adds to the overall annoyance of the film.
Meanwhile, the film's inclusion of Dion is never justified, which makes it feel weird. Ultimately, it needed to lean into Dion and her music more. First of all by sticking to its original title, It’s All Coming Back To Me, which is, of course, one of her most famous songs. It wouldn’t have mattered if it did so in a cheesy fashion, that would have make it more light hearted and watchable. But by being semi-serious, you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry. So you end up doing neither.