Tag Archives: romantic movies

The Story of My Wife

Man makes crude bet with friend, vows to marry the next girl who walks in.

Sounds like the premise of one of those beach-reads romance novels, or a cheesy teen romance, but in fact, this is writer-director Ildikó Enyedi’s latest period drama. So what’s the difference?

Sea Captain Jacob Störr (Gijs Naber) is ready to marry, he declares to his friend. “To whom?” the friend inquires, naturally. Jacob doesn’t know yet, so he proposes that he will marry the very next woman who enters the café. Lucky for him it’s the lovely Lizzy (Léa Seydoux), who proves surprisingly amenable to his plan.

Is it a good idea to marry so impetuously? Jacob and Lizzy will soon find that love and marriage are about as turbulent as the seas he routinely conquers as captain of a large vessel, and not so easily navigated. Marriage without courtship, indeed without even basic familiarity, does pose its challenges. The Story of My Wife is the story of a man discovering his wife after he’s already married her. She’s coy, and teasing, and he can never get a good read on her, and since we know Lizzy only through Jacob’s eyes, neither can we. Is she sincere? Serious? Unfaithful or just a flirt? Whatever charm resides in her mysterious character evaporates in the sheer repetitiveness of the film, Jacob’s jealousy coming to a head over and over again.

Jacob is awkward on land, and even more uneasy when he finds himself unable to captain his marriage and steer it in the direction of his choosing. Used to taking people at their word to a fault, Jacob cannot credit his wife’s womanly wiles. It’s mildly interesting but this clunker takes on water steadily but takes almost as long as Titanic (the movie, about 3 hours) to sink. I’m quite sure that you’ll have jumped overboard long before then. The Story of My Wife beguiles us with its pretty 1920s setting and Seydoux’s luscious ringlets, but it ultimately fails to hold the attention.

The Story of My Wife is an official selection of TIFF21.

Afterlife of the Party

Cassie (Victoria Justice) and Lisa (Midori Francis) have been best friends since childhood, but during the week of Cassie’s 25th birthday (an annual tradition of weeklong partying fondly dubbed “Cassie-Palooza”), the fact that they’ve recently been growing apart becomes glaringly obvious. After a tearful disagreement, Cassie suffers a sudden accident, and dies.

In the afterlife, an angel (Robyn Scott) breaks the news to Cassie that she has not yet ascended to heaven as she still has unfinished business down below. It’s been a year since her death and her loved ones still haven’t moved on. Cassie -the-Ghostly-Apparition will have 5 days to fix things with her mother, her father, and of course with dear Lisa.

To be honest, I really didn’t care to watch this movie. From the Netflix thumbnail alone it looked like the kind of low-budget schmaltz-fest that I have little room in my life for. However, the need to review is strong in this one, so after spending a whole day refusing to make eye contact with it, I eventually acquiesced in a moment of weakness around 1:30am.

Most shitty movies, as you may be aware, have a music montage in them. Some good movies have them too, but all shitty movies have at least one, often more, the signature move of a director who’s out of ideas but not time, padding for an inadequate script. This particular shitty movie actually starts with a music montage, which is kind of like wearing a MAGA hat in public: a fair warning to all that the contents herein are definitively shitty. Steer clear for your own good. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Is Afterlife of the Party a good movie? It is not. It’s not even a good title! Don’t butter my butt and call me a biscuit, Netflix. Netflix Originals are hit and miss. Or hit and miss and miss and miss, more like. Often they’ll give writers a rest and let their algorithm make the movie for them. What do people want? Music, romance, foreign accents, fairy godmothers, second chances, and once in a while, a croissant. So Netflix stitched these seemingly random items together and they called it Afterlife of the Party. Will people click on it and watch? Likely yes. Possibly in droves. Not Bridgerton droves, not Tiger King droves, not Extraction droves, but still, millions of people, especially young women, who like movies that are easily digestible, 30% fashion show, and an opportunity to have a little cry. And it’s actually not that bad. The cast seems no-name to me, but it’s decent, and the costumes and sets aren’t as low-budget as I’d feared. But it’s brainless and predictable and not super high quality. The rest of us should rewatch Beasts of No Nation. Or Mank. Or The Irishman. Or To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, by thunderation, which is still many miles ahead of this one.

The Last Letter From Your Lover

The Premise: Journalist Ellie (Felicity Jones) stumbles upon a stack of vintage love letters and is inspired by their contents to unravel the mystery of their forbidden romance.

The Verdict: The film covers two distinct stories: that of Ellie in present day, whose passion for the archives may have as much to do with the sensitive and hunky administrator as the love letters, and of Jennifer (Shailene Woodley) in the past, falling in love with a man who is not her husband before an accident derails the relationship. The film is pretty, often sumptuous actually, particularly the period pieces (people haven’t truly dressed well since the 60s), but the story isn’t exactly original. Jones is sweet as ever, but her character’s flat; Woodley is respectable but not quite believable as a glamorous adulterer. The highly contrived events are predictable of course, as all romances tend to be. But if they’re your jam, The Last Letter From Your Letter offers two for the price of one.

Check out this semi-steamy period romance on Netflix.

Director: Augustine Frizzell

Starring: Felicity Jones, Shailene Woodley, Joe Alwyn, Callum Turner,
Nabhaan Rizwan

Based on the book by Jojo Moyes

Resort To Love

Love those cheesy holiday romances but can’t quite cope with Christmas in July (or August)? I’ve got your fix.

The Premise: Erica (Christina Milian) suffers two major blows: the album tat was going to be her big break gets shelved, and her fiance leaves her a month before their wedding. Reeling, her friend convinces her to take a seasonal job singing at a tropical resort – a beachy change of pace is just what she needs to, you know, get her groove back. But uh oh: her ex (Jay Pharoah) shows up – not to win her back, but for his own destination wedding to another woman. Yikes! And Erica, of course, is supposed to be their wedding singer! Double yikes.

The Verdict: It is what it is: a sweet and simple romance. It’s definitely not much more, but Christina Milian is very watchable (as evidenced in her previous Netflix offering, another romance punnily titled Falling Inn Love), and so is her love interest, the very hunky Sinqua Walls. This one’s only for fans of the genre, but those who are are sure to love it.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever

Prepare your tender hearts for possible breakage: this is the third (and final) installment in the To All The Boys series and in it we’ll bid adieu to our favourite young couple, Lara Jean and Peter. They’ve come a long way from merely posing as a couple in the first film to being threatened by charming rival suitors in the second. Seniors in high school, they’re about to graduate and go to Stanford together – or are they?

Back from a spring break in Seoul, Lara Jean learns she hasn’t been accepted to Stanford and suddenly the entire future she and Peter have envisioned together is in flux. With a class trip to New York City, prom, and graduation on the horizon, these milestones might have to be borne solo. If Lara Jean and Peter aren’t going to college together, they may as well just go through with the inevitable break up now and get it over with.

After three movies worth of emotional investment, it’s hard to say goodbye to Lara Jean and Peter, but first loves aren’t necessarily forever, and it’s sort of sweet to see Lara Jean finding happiness on her own terms, with or without Peter. In the first two movies she wondered who she loved but now she’s wondering what else she values and who else she is. Now this is growing up.

Director Michael Fimognari called this movie “an unintentional love letter” and he’s got a point; filmed back to back with the second one, this movie didn’t predict that the class of 2021 would be disrupted by a global pandemic, so this movie’s graduating class is perhaps the only one that will get to slow dance at prom and don caps and gowns without social distancing. Most of their real-life contemporaries have given up so much so in a sense we’re all living vicariously through Lara Jean and Peter.

It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to these two high school sweethearts but all good things must come to an end and all things considered, this is a pretty fitting farewell for our two star-crossed lovers.

Sylvie’s Love

Picture it: 1950s Harlem. A young man is walking by a record store. Through the window he spots a beautiful young woman behind the cash register, visibly enjoying an episode of I Love Lucy. Something urges him inside – he grabs the Help Wanted sign out of the window just to have something to say. The young woman, Sylvie (Tessa Thompson), attempts a quick dismissal, but her father (Lance Reddick) stops the young man, and engages him on the spot. I’m not sure Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) meant to find employment on this day, but it’s a great excuse to see Sylvie again, so he’s not about to turn it down.


In fact, Robert is a jazz musician, he plays the sax, and he’s very impressed by Sylvie’s deep love and knowledge of music. They spend a lot of time together in the record store, exchanging stories, and barbs, and heated looks. You might even say they were falling in love, except for one little hiccup: Sylvie was engaged to be married. Her fiancé Lacy is away for the summer, but they’ve been very much betrothed ever since her mother caught them making out. This little speedbump keeps the flames on low for a little while, but they’re young, they’re attractive, they actually like each other – soon those flames ignite because passion cannot be denied. But then summer’s over and Robert’s jazz quartet is taking him away, to Paris. He invites his love Sylvie of course, but at the last moment she demurs, she stays and he leaves. Sylvie is pregnant of course, but Robert must never know; she believes in his talent and won’t get in the way of his dreams. They part.

Five years later, Sylvie is married to fiancé Lacy (Alano Miller), who married her knowing she was pregnant with another man’s child. He provides for Sylvie and Michelle but it’s instantly clear that theirs is no love match, and we can’t help but compare it unfavourably to that of Sylvie and Robert, and suspect that she must as well. Like any good love story, Sylvie and Robert’s isn’t over yet. They will cross paths again, and try again. Great romances aren’t about the destination, they’re about the journey. It’s the story that matters, the obstacles overcome, destiny pulling them together.

Writer-director Eugene Ashe gives us a lush period romance with Black leads, which the genre has heretofore tended to ignore. But he also grants us a full picture of Sylvie’s life, which doesn’t just revolve around this one crush, but is populated with family, ambition, dreams, and obligation. Because she’s an actual person, her love story isn’t straight-forward. Real life seeps in, threatens to wipe the shine off new love. The triumph is in honouring love despite its challenges. It’s in making the compromises and acknowledging one’s surroundings and still pursuing the heart’s desire. Sylvie’s Love is one for the ages.

Love Sarah

Sarah and her best friend Isabella (Shelley Conn) were on the verge of opening up their very own bakery, a long time shared aspiration, when Sarah died tragically, leaving behind unfulfilled dreams and a lease that Isabella was now responsible for alone, despite having lost her baker, an essential element in most bakeries, you’ll find.

Sarah’s aimless daughter Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet) and her estranged mother Mimi (Celia Imrie) decide to join her in Sarah’s stead. And Sarah’s ex, Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones), shows up too, thank goodness, because this bakery was still very much in need of a baker, although it turns out Isabella is perfectly capable of doing the baking, she just lacked the confidence. But that’s not all Matthew’s contributing to the bakery! He’s also putting out daddy vibes, leaving Clarissa to question whether he might the mystery father she’s never known and her mother never revealed. Oh, and he makes the pretty pastries of course, which do indeed look good enough to eat, so if food porn is what you’re after, this movie’s got loads, presented rather prettily on a buffet of white platters. But for some reason, they’re just not selling. The bakery makes no money at all until they decide to rebrand and start baking up international delights to lure in London’s many and varied immigrants.

The bakery thriving or failing is almost secondary to these characters’ healing, which they’re all needing to slightly different extents. Healing takes different forms of course – romance, success, family, forgiveness – and it’s not just the bakery at work but the fact that these four people have found each other in their hour of need and created a community for themselves that fosters connection and leaves everyone just a little less isolated with their grief or their loneliness.

On a scale from “microwaving for one” to “molecular gastronomy,” Love Sarah is canned pasta sauce, not particularly complex or memorable, but easy and comforting. It’s sweet, it’s got wonderful performances, it feels good in a heartening, borderline inspirational way. It’s very watchable, and would in fact pair well with a nice slice of cake and a tall glass of milk.

Frozen In Love

January is the most depressing month of the year; the 24th has the unfortunate reputation of being the absolute worst day of all. The joy of the holidays is over, the bill are due, the work has piled up, and there’s lots of long, cold winter months ahead. Maybe you’re feeling down because you’ve already broken your new year resolutions, maybe you’re feeling blue because you’ve hardly seen the sun, or maybe it’s because what feels like a “winter wonderland” on Christmas feels more like a “snowy, slushy shithole” just a week later – pass the Advil, my back is killing me from shoveling all that goddamned snow.

Bear with me, I do have a point. OR MAYBE the reason you’re feeling a little less happy is because the Hallmark Christmas romance movies have dried up, and you’ve had to tuck away the corner of your heart that enjoys them in the same storage bin as the wreath and the wrapping paper. But rejoice! The Hallmark channel is actually all year round now, and you can be enjoying generic winter romance movies like this one RIGHT FREAKING NOW!

Mary (Rachel Leigh Cook) is the owner of a severely struggling book store (also just known as a book store these days). It’s facing closure if she doesn’t magically rebrand it into something people will choose to overpay for books at in a really big way. She’s got a friend in PR who vows to help, but I think we should check her credentials because her great idea is to use a “buddy system,” pairing 2 of her clients (her only 2 clients as far as we know) together to somehow turn each other’s luck around. If Mary, a book store owner, doesn’t know how to run her book store profitably, why would anyone who is not a book store owner? And Mary doesn’t wind up paired with anyone, she winds up paired with Adam (Niall Matter), the bad boy of hockey. He’s been kicked off any number of teams and has recently received a 10 game suspension for being naughty again. He has to rehab his image and you know what they say: only a failing book store can do that!

Naturally, Mary and Adam hate each other at first; she’s a know-it-all but never-do, and he’s a jerk. But working together to solve their common book store-hockey problem turns their animosity into instant attraction. Hubba hubba! Only one problem: if they’re successful and his team takes him back, it’ll take him away from Mary and back on the road to unspecified glory. Oh well, that little wrinkle is their problem, not yours. It’s January. Take some time for yourself. Pour generously. Sit cozily. Munch happily. And watch guilt-free, because you deserve it, year round.

All My Life

Jennifer (Jessica Rothe) and Solomon (Harry Shum Jr.) are a happy young couple. They’ve had their share of ups and downs like anyone else, and he’s struggled to balance his desire to pursue his passion for food as a career and do the responsible thing, keeping his stable but uninspired job to provide for his new little family. Because oh yes: they’re making a go of it. Sol’s asked Jen to marry him, and she’s said yes, and they’ve got happily ever after twinkling in their eyes. Wedding plans are in the works but you know they didn’t make a movie about this couple because everything was easy for them.

Inspired by a true love story, Jennifer and Sol’s relationship is about to get tested, big time. Sol’s got liver cancer, which means wedding plans are put on hold and every last penny is poured into life saving treatment rather than cakes and dresses. But their supportive friends and family take pity on them, pitching in and asking for help from strangers to grant Jen and Sol their dream wedding, a beautiful bright spot during an otherwise terrible time.

It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. True love tested by tear-jerking terminal cancer. But All My Life is helped considerably by charismatic leads with chemistry, a supporting cast that truly uplifts, and a story that may not be original, but is nonetheless well-executed. If you’re in the mood for a weepie, this one’s going to fit the bill.

Palm Springs

Nyles (Andy Samberg) is in Palm Springs (I assume – the title might have you believe this is of even the slightest importance, but it’s really not, could be anywhere) for a wedding. His girlfriend is a bridesmaid and he’s her plus one, which doesn’t quite account for just how uninvested he is in the proceedings. Even if you’re not close to the couple, you generally want to be respectful of their big day. Nyles shows up in a bad Hawaiian shirt, pops beers all ceremony long, and then hijacks the maid of honour’s speech to the bride. You can’t quite pinpoint how or why Nyles seems just a little bit off, but he is, considerably, and yet when he directs his charm toward the bride’s sister and maid of honour, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), even she seems unable to resist, and she doesn’t appear to be having a great day herself.

What gives? Turns out, it’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about. You know, like Groundhog Day? And a dozen other copycats, none of worth mentioning? Yeah, like that. Nyles has been reliving the same day over and over for goodness knows how long (you know who does know? The screenwriter. Excellent source. His answer: about 40 years. Forty fucking years!). Anyway, after a particularly nice day spent with Sarah, she follows him into the time loop cave of doom despite him cautioning her not to. The rest isn’t so much history as an infinite present. Nyles has 40 years of this under his belt, so he’s given himself over completely to nihilism (hence the Hawaiian shirt), but Sarah is new enough to the game to be fed by her anger, resentment, and frustration. She wants out, and she’s so determined to solve or win the time loop, she’ll try anything, including but not limited to: exploding an innocent goat, getting hit by a truck, making the ultimate sacrifice, and learning quantum physics.

Time loop movies are a dime a dozen and I haven’t liked a single one since Bill Murray, but now, suddenly, there are two. Like Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is a rom-com of sorts, or perhaps an anti-rom-com – there is no worse romance killer, not even death, than too much time together. But one man’s existential crisis is another man’s pure entertainment. Samberg and Milioti not only have a viable chemistry, she brings a darkness that balances Samberg’s goofball energy perfectly so that, despite the extreme challenge to mental health in this film, we don’t fly off the deep end of either side of the continuum, but we do enjoy a sliding scale of extremes and a lot of laughs because of it. Writer Andy Siara keeps us intrigued with a script that is unpredictable and unexpected, but most of all coated in well-earned giggles that are executed perfectly by the cast, including JK Simmons as Roy, someone else caught in the infinite loop thanks to Nyles, and not super gracious about it either. Siara and director Max Barbakow work well together to subvert our expectations and challenge what we think we know about rom-coms.

Palm Springs was bought by Hulu at Sundance for a record-setting sum: 17.5 million dollars and 69 cents. The 69 cents set the record; Birth of a Nation held it before this, and that turned out to be a bit of a debacle, didn’t it? But Palm Springs was a great investment for Hulu, becoming the most-streamed in its first weekend Hulu had ever seen. Since Canada doesn’t have Hulu, it is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, and that’s a good thing, because Palm Springs is one of the brightest spots in an otherwise dull year.