A rather long time has passed since the Netflix rom-com renaissance led by 2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. In that film’s wake, a wide variety of unique titles flooded the market, varying in quality. Soon, every major company tried to hop back on the hype train. While I strongly believe there will absolutely always be a market for romantic comedies, Love At First Sight arrives during a dry spell for standard heterosexual fare. 2023 has been the year of the queer rom-com, between Bottoms, season 2 of Heartstopper, and Red, White & Royal Blue. However, Love At First Sight is anything but generic. Screenwriter Katie Lovejoy (To All the Boys Always and Forever) and director Vanessa Caswill set their aim on the trope of (what else?) love at first sight, and give the movie a classic feel. Narrated by Jameela Jamil and starring Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy, the feel-good comforts of this charming rom-com are statistically proven for maximum enjoyment.
According to a cheery narration from Jamil (The Good Place, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law), December 20th is the worst time of year to travel through John F. Kennedy International Airport. No one knows this better than 20-year-old Hadley (Richardson, Five Feet Apart, Montana Story). Though Hadley is late 21% of the time on average, today she was headed for Shoreditch, London for her father’s third wedding. As fate would have it, Hadley misses her plane by just four minutes. She is forced to wait for the next one, which has only business class available.
The Narrator insists this is not a love story, but a story about fate; whether by chance or some other force entirely, Hadley sits waiting at a broken charging station right next to hunky Oliver (Hardy, The Voyeurs, Bohemian Rhapsody). He offers up his charger to Hadley and the rest, as they say, is history. Or is it? Oliver invites Hadley to grab food with him before their flight. Oliver studies statistics at Yale, while the Narrator is careful to point out that Oliver’s on time and phone charging percentage both sit at a prompt 94%. Hadley on the other hand is currently undecided with her studies.
Almost immediately, their interests seem to overlap. Both are headed for major events over in London, as Oliver has a speech to make for his mother’s memorial. Both hate mayonnaise, though Oliver is decidedly more testy about germs. Seated for their flight, Oliver’s seatbelt will not buckle. The overly-friendly stewardess is sure to help him to the only open seat on the flight, coincidentally right next to Hadley! The flight attendant is one of many appearances of the Narrator within the story, who emerges as everything from bus driver to bartender to random passerby giving directions.
During the almost seven-hour flight, a love match incubates. But at customs, Hadley drops her phone, which cracks and dies, losing Oliver’s phone number for good. With the statistics stacked against them, can Hadley and Oliver somehow find their way back to each other when the two are destined for entirely different parts of London? The Narrator pops up to give a helping hand whenever necessary, yet for the most part she allows fate and coincidence to speak for itself. The unique style of narration brings to mind Men, Women & Children, or Stranger Than Fiction, and adds depth to every scene.
Love At First Sight is an adorable movie from beginning to end, and one which understands that giving us complex characters to root for is the key. Oliver’s equation-heavy resistance to vulnerability clashes with Hadley, who wears her heart on her sleeve. They say that opposites attract, and in this dreamy connection between two people who would have never met if Hadley made her first flight, that is exactly the case. Love At First Sight recalls underrated Tribeca favorite Dating & New York, as well as last year’s super-cute fate-heavy rom-com, About Fate. Female creatives both behind and in front of the camera embrace cliche to give audiences exactly what they want. Emotionally satisfying and brimming with positivity, Love At First Sight feels like a modern fairy tale come to life.
Is it really Love At First Sight? Find out, when your new favorite rom-com debuts exclusively to Netflix on Friday, September 15th.