"It may be a filled with the obvious but it's emotion and heart put this above the regular streaming rom-com trash."
BY ELLIOT LINES MAY 15, 2023
Run-of-the-mill romantic comedies felt like they used to be an ever-present of good quality, on the big screen anyway. Nowadays, in the streaming age we live in, this genre of film is overly saturated with constant poor "rebrands" of the same love stories, making it difficult for any to stand out. What's Love Got to do With it? may be a filled with the obvious but it's emotion and heart put this above the regular streaming rom-com trash.
Zoe (Lily James) is a documentary filmmaker who uses a dating app that only delivers an endless stream of Mr. Wrongs. For Zoe's childhood friend and neighbour, Kaz (Shazad Latif), the answer is to follow his parents' example and opt for an arranged marriage to a bright and beautiful bride from Pakistan. As Zoe films his hopeful journey to marry a stranger, she begins to wonder if she might have something to learn from a profoundly different approach to finding love.
With the arranged marriage, or assisted marriage as it's put here, being the focus of the story there is an extremely fast pace to proceedings. We are quickly introduced to all our characters and move along to Kaz' search for a wife. The idea of this arranged marriage is explored and not just thrown in, and due to Zoe's documentation of the journey you get to learn about her character along with Kaz. As most of these rom-coms do, WLGTDWI? continues with a fairly generic story-line; Build-up - confrontation - heartbreak - realisation - resolution, and it takes the obvious swerves, but that doesn't seem to cause an issue with the viewing experience as a whole.
For this to work the relationship between Zoe and Kaz has to feel real. The idea that they were childhood friends is set up early and the subtle hints at something building is peppered throughout the film building the history between them. Zoe is seeing this marriage through a directors eye but that seemingly triggers something in her giving her a glass shattering moment. In this moment Kaz retaliates and attacks her personally, showing that past feelings could've been there. The whole dynamic they have builds up to something emotional by the end, you're never routing for Kaz and his arranged wife, always for him and Zoe, this ending hits all the right emotional notes.
Where the story and characters keep the interest going, the script is sometimes left wanting. Interactions between all these characters doesn't always feel natural and their communication is a little on the nose, too precise to be an actual conversation. As with most of these rom-coms the comedy is cheesy and doesn't always land, but it has a dabble of funny moments mostly with Zoe's mother Cath, played by Emma Thompson.
What's Love Got to do With It? may just be another romantic-comedy with the same story progression and the standard clichés, but there is something about it that makes it stand out. The use of documentary film making creates a different dynamic, making these characters feel relatable so that you're egging them onto "victory", all the way to an emotional and satisfying ending.