Dir: Christian Ditter. UK-Germany. 2014. 102mins
Saccharine sweet and at times trying just too hard for its own good, Christian Ditter’s self-conscious British rom-com attempts to mine the ‘can friends be lovers’ territory prospected by the likes of When Harry Met Sally - and more recently One Day – before it. There are some genuinely likeable moments and the screen pairing of Lily Collins and Sam Claflin works rather well, but in the end it all feels rather heavy-handed and over-laden with music cues to the extent that the story rarely gets a chance to breath and properly develop.
Lily Collins, after fantasy roles in films like Mirror Mirror and The Mortal Instruments: City Of Ashes, is impressively feisty and charming as a young woman whose life takes a change of direction, handling the comedy with ease and certainly showing what a bright and charismatic young talent she is.
Whether Collins and Claflin are big enough names to help launch the film remains to be seen, but rom-coms are short on the ground as we head into horror/Halloween period, and fans of its source novel – Cecilia Ahern’s 2004 bestseller Where Rainbows End – may well be intrigued enough to see it click as an accessible, sweet and engagingly sexy date-night film. The film screened at the Philadelphia and Rome Film Festivals and opens in the UK on October 22.
Set over a 12 year time period, from school best buddies to would-be lovers, there is a whole of familiar will-they-won’t-they stuff as opportunities are missed, regrets are had, drinks are drunk and traumas faced and dealt with. There are some nicely raunchy moments – mainly involving Lily Collins – which helps give the film a bit of an edge, but never quite enough to detract from the sheer sweetness of the whole affair. Supposedly set in the UK and the US – though the UK scenes (in truth it never states where it is located, despite being defiantly British middle-class) are pretty obviously Dublin and the Irish coast – it at least with a sense of breathless pace and a certain youthful sexiness.
Rosie (Collins) and Alex (Claflin) have been inseparable friends since they were kids, but they kiss on Rosie’s 18th birthday party – an incident that has a major impact on the rest of her lives…mainly because she can’t remember what happened because she drank too much and he thinks she is just not keen to address what happened between them. Of such misunderstandings are rom-coms built from – convinced she doesn’t feel the same for him, Alex takes a blonde beauty to the school dance and Rosie hooks up with shallow hunk Greg (Christian Cooke).
Rosie and Alex plan to go to Boston – as buddies – to study, but after a disastrous condom incident Rosie gets pregnant, with the film then following their series of missed opportunities and bad timing. Rosie raises her daughter and slowly works her way into the hotel business while Alex trains as a doctor and falls for a beautiful but manipulative American girl (Tamsin Egerton with a fine accent). They make a series of poor choices, but – of course – the underlying thread is their affection for each other, which just has to resurface at the right moment, if only to follow the rom-com rules.
Lily Collins, after fantasy roles in films like Mirror Mirror and The Mortal Instruments: City Of Ashes, is impressively feisty and charming as a young woman whose life takes a change of direction, handling the comedy with ease and certainly showing what a bright and charismatic young talent she is. Sam Claflin’s role has less depth to it, but he works well with Collins. The support cast is solid, with Tamsin Egerton the most memorable, though Jaime Winstone has some fun as Rosie’s red-haired best girl pal, especially as the film develops. The film looks terrific at all time, with cinematographer Christian Rein making sure life never looks grim or grimy despite the traumas these two would-be lovers go through, and while there are some smart music choices the film is rather over-reliant on a way-to-busy score to plug any gaps which means the film is rather too busy when some room to let the characters develop would have been nice at times.
Production companies: Constantin Film, Canyon Creek Films International sales: Mister Smith, www.mistersmithent.com
Producers: Robert Kulzer, Simon Brooks
Executive producers: Martin Moszkowicz, Cecelia Ahern
Co-producers, Don Carmody, James Flynn
Screenplay: Juliette Towhidi, based on the novel Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern
Cinematography: Christian Rein
Editor: Tony Cranstoun
Production designer: Matthew Davies Muller
Music: Ralf Wengenmayr
Main cast: Lily Collins, Sam Claflin, Jaime Winstone, Tamsin Egerton, Suki Waterhouse, Christian Cooke, Jamie Beamish, Lily Laight