I’d be remiss to wonder if there wasn’t consideration to slightly retweak the title based upon most of Love At First Sight’s setting. Based on Jennifer E. Smith’s 2011 novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, much of the film’s first half takes place inside an airport and a long plane ride to London. The essence of fate and statistical probability feels like they should cancel each other out. If there is a defined percentage of something happening, can chance make up the difference?
The rom-com genre has thrown every possible scenario of love at us from all angles, and Love At First Sight is aware of this – director Vanessa Caswill even plays on those themes. At the heart of the matter are two people. Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) is desperately trying to get from JFK to London to make it before her father Andrew (Rob Delaney) is due to remarry. She misses her original flight and must wait for an expensive but comfy business seat. Her phone isn’t the most reliable, as the film lets us know, but while at a charging station, Hadley meets Oliver (Ben Hardy). He’s studying statistics at Yale and is returning to London to visit family.
Very early on, you can tell they both have chemistry – primarily due to the charm both Richardson and Hardy exude together. The film’s narrator (Jameela Jamil) fills the film with many statistical facts about passengers on holiday flights, delays, and minutes it takes to get to such places (and even stars as a physical embodiment of fate) – but it all comes down to how believable the main characters are. With that, they have specific fears tied to things they’ve gone through in their personal lives. Hadley is a child of divorce and is still upset at her dad about it. Oliver’s mother (Sally Phillips) has lung cancer – once in remission and has returned years later. His studies coincide with the need to control everything to a science.
If you guessed, they both come together and teach one another a life lesson. Or at least Love At First Sight intends for that to happen. As Hadley and Oliver get closer on their lengthy flight, they exchange various things about their backgrounds; it’s time to go to their respective places. As many of these rom-coms play out, a complication happens where they don’t get to exchange numbers and thus have to find their way back together through some vague clues. Romance always finds a way, no matter how far-fetched things may be. In the essence of this story, the overall layer of how Hadley and Oliver’s relationship comes about is both familiar and heartwarming at the same time.
Concerning how the backstories play a role, Hadley’s reasoning feels slightly underdeveloped compared to Oliver’s. At the crux of Hadley’s quarrel with her father, she’s witnessing him marry someone she’s never met until the wedding day. There’s also the undercurrent of her father moving to London and thus deciding his marriage to his mother wasn’t working. Delaney’s parental warmth works well in the role, but everything feels rushed considering the premise.
Oliver’s realization of mortality in how his mother and father celebrate their fleeting time together might serve some emotional resonance. He has to confront that life can’t always be reduced to fractions and percentages – sometimes, you have to live things when the odds don’t look to be in your favor. It’s an essential, enjoyable understanding of how relationships work – even with Oliver, seeing 50% of marriages end in divorce. What about the other half? What if things happen to go your way? Love At First Sight is at it’s best when it’s not relying on the overarching premise of sighting numbers, but giving the people on screen the floor to tell the story.