Netflix review: 'Love at First Sight' steeped in serendipity

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 18 2023 12:19 PM

Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy in 'Love at First Sight'
Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy in 'Love at First Sight'

Hadley Sullivan (Haley Lu Richardson) just missed her flight to London by four minutes. She was on her way there to attend and be the bridesmaid at the second wedding of her father Andrew (Rob Delaney) to his fiancee Charlotte (Katrina Nare). She was close to her dad before, but was still bitter about him divorcing her mom. She had to buy a ticket on the next flight, even if the only available seat was in business class. 

Oliver Jones (Ben Hardy) was a young British man who was taking up statistics in an American university. His parents Val (Dexter Fletcher) and Tessa (Sally Phillips) were theater folk obsessed with Shakespeare, and his brother Luther (Tom Taylor) was an eccentric EDM DJ. Oliver was a math nerd and would quote statistics to justify his decisions. When he got to his assigned seat on the plane, the seatbelt was broken. He was upgraded to business class.

"Love at First Sight" was such a generic name for a rom-com, I almost ignored it, thinking the lazy title was an omen for a boring story. Thanks to positive word of mouth, I still checked it out, and good thing I did. The original source material was a 2011 novel by Jennifer E. Smith entitled "The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight," which made sense in the context of the story, but was admittedly a rather unwieldy title of a movie. 

The director was British filmmaker Vanessa Caswill. Her works prior to this movie had been TV miniseries on BBC, like "Thirteen" (2016), "Gold Digger" (2019) and most notably "Little Women" (2017), where she showed her skills in telling stories about women. In this her feature film debut, she told the quirky love story of Hadley and Oliver quite well, especially when complemented with dry British wit. 

I've seen Haley Lu Richardson before in the dying teen love story "Five Feet Apart" (2019) and she was a very good and natural actress. Ben Hardy, whom we've first seen as Archangel in "X-Men: Apocalypse" (2016), is actually already 32 in real life, but he can still pull off a college boy vibe here, barely. 

Jameela Jamil played guardian angel of sorts to push the love story forwards, narrating the backstory and numerical facts for each scene. 

However, for me, the most extraordinary character was Oliver's mother Tessa, played by veteran British comedienne Sally Phillips. That scene at Peckham House had elaborate costumes and colorful production design, but the emotional impact was so rich and eloquent. 

I went into this film only expecting to be mildly entertained with a sweet but predictable love story, but there I was in tears, as would anyone who was in Ollie's situation. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."