Directed by Christian Ditter. Starring Lily Collins, Sam Claflin, Tamsin Egerton, Jaime Winstone, Lily Laight, Christian Cooke, Nick Lee, Suki Waterhouse, Jamie Beamish. Written by Juliette Towhidi, from the novel by Cecelia Ahern.
Two best friends who are truly, madly, deeply in love wade through 12 years of meaningful stares in Love, Rosie, an uneven and surprisingly crass comedy (reminiscent of 2013’s I Give it a Year) from director Christian Ditter from the novel Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern (who also serves as executive producer on the film).
Set in Dublin, Love, Rosie follows Rosie Dunne (Lily Collins) and her male BFF Alex Stewart (Sam Claflin) from childhood, where they share intimate secrets like Alex’s bizarre dreams, up through high school, where they share a kiss on her 18th birthday (immediately forgotten via alcohol-induced blackout), then to their college years, which puts an ocean between them, and then this and that and the other happens over the next 12 years of their lives…
The events of the film move so fast and furious that we rarely have a chance to take them in: major plot points or reveals are simply missing, and we simply have to accept that this character is here or doing that as we play catch-up with the screenplay.
At its most outré, Love, Rosie becomes something like a rom-com spin on The Tree of Life, a disparate collection of briefly-glimpsed vignettes that seems to convey nothing less than the complexities of life itself. With ear-to-ear smiles from the cast, lustful gazes, cute reaction shots from the kids, and a bubbly pop tune on the soundtrack.
There are three weddings and one funeral during the course of the proceedings, along with two pregnancies, two extra-marital affairs, four or five moves, awkward sexual encounters, parties, reunions, and so on and so forth. It becomes wearying after a while, and you get the feeling you’re watching a montage in place of a movie; the film’s trailer effectively tells this story in two-and-a-half minutes, while the movie drags things out for 100+, and feels considerably longer in the process.
All the meanwhile, the two leads are so obviously in love with each other from the very first scene that we’re screaming at them to get a clue. There aren’t just the lustful gazes (though there’s no shortage of those) but also the intimate touches, a forgotten kiss, and numerous will-they-or-won’t-they moments when the pair move closer and closer and almost-nearly lock lips but then chicken out at the last moment. Get it over with!
No, before they can get together they have to let life wear them down: Rosie has a daughter, Alex flies to the States and gets married, and they generally live life while thinking about each other through every waking moment. Because the film moves so fast and covers so much ground, we don’t get important scenes such as Rosie’s strict Catholic parent’s reaction to her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, or even how Rosie deals with the father of her child.
Made slick and flashy, Love, Rosie also be called the ‘lens flare’ movie: anyone who complains about J.J. Abrams excessive use of the technique in Star Trek and other films is advised to watch the numerous scenes of young lovers here, where the camera is pointed directly at the sun and blinds us whenever one of the characters turns their heads.
Minor gripe: the characters frequently chat to each other through texts and IM, which are prominently displayed on the screen. But the director also has the actors read their messages aloud through voice-over narration as if we’re too lazy to read what’s written on the screen.
Major gripe: when did otherwise pleasant little rom-coms take a page out of the Farrelly Brothers school of crass gross-out humor? Love, Rosie features two on-screen vomiting scenes, a post-coitus comedy sequence during which Rosie loses a condom inside her vagina, another in which she doesn’t have a key to free herself from handcuffs and takes her 5-year-old daughter to school attached to the bed frame, and other such content. The stars here offer up some likable performances, but they’re frequently undercut by unpleasant gags that don’t seem to take their characters seriously.
Ambitious in scope but not storytelling, Love, Rosie is a mild diversion for genre fans but holds little appeal for anyone else. Ultimately, it strands its two charismatic stars and feels like a missed opportunity.