Review: Love, Rosie (2014)

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Director: Christian Ditter
Screenwriter: Juliette Towhidi
Based on “Where Rainbows End”, a novel by Cecelia Ahern
Cast: Lily Collins, Sam Claflin, Tamsin Egerton, Suki Waterhouse, Jaime Winstone, Christian Cooke & Lily Laight
Runtime: 102 min // Certificate: 15

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqSE6Kzuht0]

What is it about real life that scares Christian Ditter (Vorstadtkrokodile) and Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls) so much? As the two people responsible for adapting Cecelia Ahern’s “Where Rainbows End” – a novel written in the style of letters between two best friends-cum-potential lovers – for the big screen, they seem utterly blind to what it is that makes life “life” and what makes people “human”. This is a particular shame because the first fifteen minutes of Love, Rosie suggest that we might just get some honest drama for a change. Alas, it isn’t long before the rug is callously pulled from under us and we are launched headfirst into a monstrously middle-class, bog-standard, paint-by-numbers rom-com that takes far too many liberties with its audience’s goodwill.

Set partly in England and partly in Boston, Massachusetts, over the course of twelve years, the film tells the story of Rosie (Collins; Mirror Mirror) and Alex (Claflin; The Riot Club), best friends since childhood, as they embark on that tedious “will they, won’t they” part of their lives. At 18, they plan to move to Boston and fulfil their dreams, only for real-life to get in the way and throw everything into disarray. Failed romances, missed opportunities and pointless arguments define their friendship for the whole of their twenties as slowly, excruciatingly and ultimately insufferably, we move towards the inevitable and supposedly hard-earned conclusion, in which they run into each other’s arms and live happily ever after or something. I don’t know. I’d given up caring by that point.

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Now, I’ve not read Ahern’s novel – heck, the only thing I actually know about her is that she’s the daughter of Bertie Ahern, the disgraced ex-Taoiseach of Ireland – so I don’t know if the problems lie with the source material, but it strikes me that this is a classic case of what works on the page not translating to the big screen. Juliette Towhidi approaches the characters and the story she’s trying to tell like a butcher, hacking merrily away at all the grit, the slop and the artery-clogging fat and mulch that represents those genuine, honest-to-God moments that comprise real-life, all in her quest to create a prime cut of clean, crisp, cookie-cutter romance that lacks all flavour and authenticity.

As a result of this, the film descends into classic “photo album cinema”. The little moments – you know the ones I mean; those tender, honest, genuine and relatable moments that we remember and hold close to our hearts, as opposed to the ones that Ditter and Towhidi think are important – are wholly absent from the affair. It is “events”, rather than “moments”, that make-up the vast bulk of Love, Rosie, and as such none of it feels real. We jump from one disaster, one chance-meeting, and one grand conversation to the next, with reality barely getting a look in at all. Occasionally, said events are interspersed with a few shots of our two likeable but thoroughly mundane characters staring longingly into space while the soundtrack tells us how we should be feeling, but for the most part it’s basically a drab comedy-of-errors that lacks both heart and soul.

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That’s not to say that Love, Rosie is a complete write-off, because it’s not. Collins and Claflin make for a decent pairing and they do their best with the monotonous, anodyne script they’re given. Alas, not even Burton and Taylor could muddle their way through a film like this and come through the other side unscathed. The performers have absolutely nothing to work with, and by the end – when they’ve apparently aged 12-years, yet still look as fresh-faced and innocent as they did when they were teenagers – it really does start to show. The script is intricately crafted to such an extent that all the realism and honesty is drained from it as, bit-by-bit, it works to extract tears – by force if necessary – from those of a more feeble disposition, while the rest of us must look on in a confused rage as to why nobody has slapped some much needed sense into either or both of the idiots on screen yet.

A few humorous moments help keep Love, Rosie afloat, and I think the two leads do a passable enough job, but it’s ultimately a dud. It’s wish-fulfilment cinema at its most craven, with real life reduced to a series of snapshots and honest emotions replaced by wretched pining. There’s a flicker of a decent film in here somewhere, but it’s snuffed out by an overbearing smugness that is simply infuriating, not to mention a chronic overreliance on archetypal shrieking women to provide its laughs. When the inevitable happens (not a spoiler – you know where it’s heading from the very beginning), you don’t so much cheer as breathe a well-earned sigh of relief that it’s finally finished, which is pretty much the death knell for a film about a relationship of this ilk…

★★

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