Netflix’s ‘Love at First Sight’ Finally Gives Us Deep Feels Again


The Big Picture

  • Netflix’s Love at First Sight is a pleasant surprise for a rom-com, offering a fresh take on classic tropes and showcasing chemistry between Richardson and Hardy.
  • The film modernizes rom-com tropes by incorporating a chance encounter and addressing the challenges of cell phones and social media in romance.
  • Love at First Sight explores the impact of Hadley and Oliver’s parents on their views of love, adding depth to the characters and their relationship.

Netflix doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to high-quality romantic comedies. Most of their original rom-coms range from average to famously bad like He’s All That or the Kissing Booth trilogy, and you’d have to go back to 2018 for some of their best, Set It Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Vanessa Caswill‘s feature film debut Love at First Sight starring Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy as two college students who have a chance encounter on a trip from New York to London, is a pleasant surprise for a Netflix rom-com. Love at First Sight‘s fresh take on classic rom-com tropes, Richardson and Hardy’s chemistry, and the film’s larger ruminations on love and loss prove that a big budget isn’t always necessary for a compelling love story.

What Is ‘Love at First Sight’ About?

Image via Netflix

Based on the young adult romance novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Love at First Sight follows 20-year-old NYU student Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) and 22-year-old Yale student Oliver (Ben Hardy), who have a meet-cute at JFK airport after Hadley misses her flight to London. The two hit it off when Oliver offers Hadley his phone charger, and they chat and have dinner together before going their separate ways as they board the plane. When Oliver realizes his seatbelt is broken, the only other available seat happens to be right next to Hadley’s, and they spend the flight flirting and getting to know each other on a deeper level. Wanting to pursue their connection further, Oliver gives Hadley his phone number before they’re separated at the customs line, but Hadley’s battery dies, losing his number before it can be saved to her phone. Hadley gets stuck in the longer line, so they’re unable to reunite in baggage claim, but a series of coincidences bring them back together later on.

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Ben Hardy and Haley Lu Richardson on the poster for Love at First Sight
Image via Netflix

Love at First Sight employs some classic romance movie tropes like the “British guy falls for American girl” trope found in Richard Curtis films like Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and About Time, and the “chance encounter” romance à la Before Sunrise and Brief Encounter. The latter has become a more difficult premise to realistically execute with the advent of cell phones and social media, but Love at First Sight does so through a character flaw of Hadley’s, whose cell phone is frequently low on battery or completely dead. The meet-cute continues to be a compelling rom-com staple, especially at a time when meeting romantic partners via dating apps has become ubiquitous among younger generations. Though Love at First Sight doesn’t address this fact head-on, Oliver’s character, and the film as a whole, is fixated on statistics and probabilities of different phenomena, like that of finding your soulmate. The film also incorporates an element of fantasy through its narration, as the shape-shifting narrator, played by Jameela Jamil, first appears as a flight attendant and later as a customs agent, a bus driver, and a passing stranger, each time breaking the fourth wall to remind us how improbable it is that Hadley and Oliver will cross paths multiple times and ultimately end up together.

Though Hadley and Oliver’s instant connection and budding relationship is the core of Love at First Sight, they spend much of the runtime apart dealing with their own familial issues. Hadley travels to London to attend her father Andrew’s (Rob Delaney) wedding — his second marriage to a woman she’s never met before — and when she sees Oliver carrying a garment bag, she assumes he’s going to a wedding as well. He doesn’t correct her, but really he’s on his way to a living memorial service for his mother Tessa (Sally Phillips) whose cancer returned after 12 years in remission, leaving her only a short time left to live. As Hadley attends her father’s wedding and Oliver his mother’s memorial, they are reaffirmed in their feelings for each other, but before they get back together for good, they must each confront what’s been weighing on them. Hadley finally hashes things out with her father, asking him why he didn’t fight to stay with her mother and why he decided to get re-married so quickly. Oliver comes to terms with the reality of losing his mother and having to accept her choice to not undergo treatment to extend her life just a bit longer.

How Do Hadley and Oliver’s Parents Impact Their Views on Love?

Image via Netflix

Hadley and Oliver’s views on love and relationships are colored by their respective parents’ marriages. Witnessing her parents’ divorce as an adult, Hadley is more jaded, having grown apart from her dad since his move to England and engagement to another woman, still reckoning with the fact that her parents will never get back together. Oliver on the other hand, has two parents who love each other deeply and openly, and their clear devotion to each other during his mother’s memorial is a definite tear-jerker. Andrew’s wedding, a celebration of a second chance at love, beautifully parallels Tessa’s memorial, during which her friends and family get to share and celebrate their love for her, and brings a palpable sincerity to Love at First Sight, fleshing out Hadley and Oliver’s characters in the process.

Richardson and Hardy have sweet, playful chemistry and flirty banter that make Hadley and Oliver’s relationship easy to root for after they’re abruptly separated once they land in London. After their initial connection, the characters are developed further as individuals while they go their separate ways, reuniting once and for all as better versions of themselves. Love at First Sight isn’t without cheesiness or predictability, but its happy ending comes full circle, revealing Oliver’s unusual topic of study at Yale and making direct reference to the lengthier title of the novel on which the film is based. As far as romantic comedies go, Love at First Sight is a refreshingly heartfelt entry into the typically lackluster sub-genre of Netflix originals.


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