Love Again will convince you once is enough.

At its heart – which is very, very firmly on its sleeve, LOVE AGAIN flirts with a really cute concept: text messages to a lost love that serendipitously bring together two lonely hearts; A YOU’VE GOT MAIL for the Tinder generation. It’s the kind of setup that, in more capable hands, could have had a real shot at becoming a minor classic of the meet-cute RomCom genre itself but, much like a myopically misguided Cupid, LOVE AGAIN finds its arrows landing just about everywhere but on target thanks to a misfiring cast and a script that sounds like it was written during a particularly uninspired high school drama class.

When Mira Ray (Priyanka Chopra Jonas – the Jonas being metatextually important later in the movie) witnesses her fiancé killed in front of her by a drunk driver, she retreats from the world and her work as a best-selling children’s author for two years of mourning. Eventually coaxed out of her self-imposed isolation by her sister Suzy (Sofia Ray), Mira consoles herself by continuing to text her fiancé’s phone number, a number that has in the meantime been allocated to recently jilted music journalist Rob Burns (Sam Heughan) who’s struggling to find the motivation he needs to complete an assigned profile on Céline Dion (Celine Dion).

Chopra Jonas is the film’s fundamental failure by our cinematic cupid to find its mark. As actresses go, she’s something of a contemporary of Gal Gadot: beautiful to look at, can find her marks but when it comes to emoting, lacking anything beyond a superficial emotional aspect. Case in point is the should-be-devastating opening where a charming Arinzé Kene makes an immediate impression as John, the doomed fiancé, with mere minutes of screen time is killed off screen and yet it’s only thanks to the borderline cartoon sound effects that we know something terrible has happened as the camera lingers on the near expressionless face of Chopra Jonas. It’s a problem that plagues the rest of the film too as it’s packed with a fascinatingly eclectic, vibrant and criminally wasted supporting cast nearly all of whom are immediately more engaging and interesting than our two leads.

Sam Heughan struggles to establish much chemistry with his would-be paramour here but the fault lies not in their stars but with both of them. They’re simply mismatched and fail to spark, mostly thanks to the leadenly on-the-nose dialogue that leaves no room for performance subtlety; it’s hard to root for a couple where you get the sense that for both of them, their inner-monologues are simply the sound of a microwaved potato waiting for the ping.

Perhaps writer/ director Jim Strouse’s most baffling decision – apart from not taking a few more passes at polishing the screenplay – is to populate the film with a host of British actors and then set the film in New York, resulting in a slew of performances that feel like they’re constantly wrestling with their vocal cords. This transatlantic tug-of-war does little to serve the narrative, instead, it keeps pulling viewers out of the moment, leaving them to ponder the accents rather than the unfolding romance. Then again, perhaps it was a moment of inspired mitigation once he realised that having the likes of Sofia Ray, Lydia West, Russell Tovey and Celie Imrie in support the underwritten leads were likely to be overshadowed unless he nobbled the field? Despite the linguistic handicapping, Lydia West and Russell Tovey shine like a seam of gold in the dull quartz that makes up the rest of the film. Along with Sofia Ray and Omid Djalili, they make up a quartet of characters you’ll want to spend more time with and might even wish the movie as about.

Two bits of casting which are spot-on, however, are the movie’s knowing cameos. The first is from Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ husband Nick Jonas as a particularly horrendous Tinder narcissist but the surprise gem of LOVE AGAIN is Céline Dion, bringing a refreshingly breezy sense of fun and self-awareness to the proceedings, styling herself as the archly imperious Yoda of romance to the Sam Heughan’s cynical and disenchanted journalist and reminding us of the film’s lost potential for whimsy and charm.

LOVE AGAIN stumbles down the well-trodden paths of RomCom conventionality with the grace and agility of a ballet dancer wearing two left shoes. Its promising premise is undermined by a series of questionable decisions, from casting to setting and in the end, the it serves as a stark reminder that even the cutest of meet-cute ideas needs more than just star power and scenic stock footage establishing shots to stand a chance of getting beyond a first date.

Love Again Review
Score 4
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