Yes it’s forced, manipulative, and predictable, but damn them, it works. Given that it was Sharrock’s first feature directing and Moyes ‘first script, I could have graded this on a little bit of a curve… but really didn’t need to. It is a lot sweet, a little brave, and with heavy helping of wry humor that keeps the energy and relationships alive.
The diminutive Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is delightful, if more than a little fanciful in her performance. She pulls off a 26-year-old woman-child rather well. And Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2) is more than a little cliche but manages quite a bit with just a face to work with. Well, that and an unexpectedly buff body after being wheelchair bound for more than a year, but why nitpick this Billionaire-style romance and finding-your-way flick with common sense? It is a grounded fantasy, not a realistic tale.
Janet McTeer (Maleficent) as Claflin’s mother did a great job with an impossible situation to portray. There was also the always-wonderful Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) as Clarke’s sister. The two played off one another fabulously. Honestly, one of the odder aspects of this film was getting used to Charles Dance (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as a nice guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play a nice person before. Severe but good, yes, but never just straight-up nice. As Claflin’s father, he was believable and likeable… it wasn’t his fault I kept wincing and expecting the other shoe to drop when he walked into the room.
This is an escapist evening with just enough reality to take the teeth shattering sweet off of it. And it is perfect for a date night with a sense of romance and tragedy all rolled into a very edible, barely credible pill. But it wasn’t medicine I regretted taking in the least.