It’s February, so the deluge of romantic comedies is upon us and for those who ridicule the genre, you won’t find a grumpy facilitator here. In fact, I’m an unabashed connoisseur of quirky romantic comedy, amply influenced by those particularly odd and unexpected pairings that feel like they were born of someone recklessly turning the “chemistry wheel,” finding themselves in a different place. one way or another with gold. movies like french kiss, 50 first dates, Easy, Always be my maybe and anything that wears petticoats elicits my deep, enthusiastic sigh of approval.
What the best the genre offers is that fleeting chemistry that ignites when the protagonists appear on screen together, coupled with the fastest update of those tropes we know of: opposites attract, the enemies falling in love, the road trip, etc. In the case of Amazon Studios book of love, tropes del día include “cultural opposites attract”, with a hint of enemies to lovers and a dash of emotional constipation. Nothing really groundbreaking or scripted for the genre, but it’s the charming chemistry of Sam Claflin and Verónica Echegui that makes director Analeine Cal y Mayor’s work a sweet confection to savor.
Benefiting from some low-budget international tours, book of love opens in London with Clafin playing the visual definition of buttoned up as Henry Copper, a budding lithe-haired literary darling desperately trying to get attention for his six-month-old stench, The sensible heart. It is a book without passion, without sex and without readers. It’s not until Henry’s unsympathetic new editor (Lucy Punch) tells him it’s a surprise hit in Mexico that he gets a second wind. Trying to gain traction for sales, she immediately sends him on a mini book tour with Mexican publisher Pedro (Horacio Villalobos) and Maria Rodríguez (Echegui), the book’s Spanish translator.
As soon as the English-speaking gringo lands, he doesn’t understand that the airport is announcing a lusty-looking bestseller, El Corazón Sensitive, is actually his book. He only gets it when his first book tour stop features a packed house of fans who crave Henry, and learn more about his inspiration for the story and those searing love scenes. In such moments, Clafin confuses Britain almost as well as Hugh Grant, as he blushes and explodes – in measure – when he is able to decipher that his vanilla exploration of chastity has not translated into any sort of truthfulness.
In the end, Maria took it upon herself to update her boring book to something better, and no one bothered to forward the changes to Henry. He’s now stuck doing a three-city tour with her, her grandfather and 10-year-old son Diego (Ruy Gaytan), and shredder Pedro, in a tiny VW buggy. And yes, these close quarters create plenty of presumptive fiery back and forth between a pissed off Henry and an equally upset Maria.
She’s especially excited to be roped in to guard this nerd as she always aspired to be a writer but never got the chance because her time is filled with a useless ex, single mom and caring. of his aging grandfather. She is livid that his privilege and mediocrity got him published anyway, and now he is a hit in his country due to his rewriting of his lame book. Cal y Mayor’s work on the script is refreshingly laser-like when it comes to contextualizing Maria’s hugely disappointing love experiences. For Maria, love in the books is a dream, but for sheltered Henry, it’s an ideal. She’s quick to clarify that her “love” bubble is about as far away from her real life as it gets, forcing her to open her eyes to how little he’s allowed himself to actually experience other people’s realities. and let yourself feel real things.
Their witty fight along the way is fleshed out with deeper conversations along the way, allowing Henry to immerse himself within his family unit in charming storylines. And then there’s Maria’s selfish ex, Antonio (Horacio Garcia Rojas), who gets jealous and adds some expected misunderstandings down the road to the couple’s budding feelings. Cal y Mayor also enriches the cultural landscape by making Mexico a beautiful backdrop for their trip. The cinematography offers an alluring taste of the country, from Mexico City to tiny rural roads, which lends a distinctive cachet to the film and also extends the flecked sense of romance to the country. While there’s certainly a sense the movie had to get creative with its budget, as evidenced by the truncated carnival sets and modest book tour stops, Cal y Mayor knows when it’s best to give Claflin and Rodríguez the floor to fool each other and the audience.
Cal y Mayor and David Quantick’s script is a witty reworking of oft-traveled tropes, but they spruce it up by giving the whole thing fun things to do and say, then weaving the telenovela tropes into the last act, anchoring the film in its cultural heritage. The rest lands because of the two tracks. Echegui knocks it out of the park whenever she has the opportunity (which is frequent) to really make us feel either the depth of Maria’s disappointments or the joy of finding her voice in writing and connecting with Henry. As a scene partner, Claflin is also to be commended for dressing up his look with commitment and landing a romantic seriousness that isn’t cheesy, but deeply sweet and especially sexy when he shamelessly expresses his pride and awe. for Mary. They work together, and the movie could have used a few longer scenes of them slowly bonding to cement their eventual meeting. But quibbles aside, book of love ends up being a surprising mix of sweet and salty, silly and heartfelt, deserving of those coveted rom-com sighs.
Director: Analeine Cal and Mayor
Writer: Analeine Cal and Mayor, David Quantick
With : Sam Claflin, Veronica Echegui
Release date: February 4, 2022
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers film, TV and pop culture for publications including SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She has also written official books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe, and The Story of Marvel Studios (2021). You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett.