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Review: One True Loves lacks true big screen feel

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Contributor

Based on a 2016 novel, One True Loves is a film with a romantic predicament heading for a happy ending for everyone and very little to unsettle anyone. It’s a film with a made-for-TV Hallmark feel, making its theatrical release seem a mistake in judgment.

Starring Grammy winner and Tony Award nominee (Hamilton) Phillips Soo and Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Simu Liu as one of her loves, this film is scripted by the novelist herself, Taylor Jenkins Reid, with her screenwriter husband, Alex Jenkins Reid (Trolls: The Beat Goes On! and Sing It!).

First, the predicament: A small-town gal, Emma Blair (Soo), is celebrating her engagement to a childhood friend, Sam (Liu) but discovers her missing and declared dead husband, Jesse (Luke Bracey) is alive.

When they were married, Jesse was an adventure photographer and Emma was a travel writer. Jesse disappeared four years ago in a helicopter crash. Emma returned to her Massachusetts hometown (actually filmed in South Carolina) and became involved in her family’s bookstore, something she had originally sought to escape.

During this time, she reconnected with Sam, who is now an orchestra teacher and will soon become the teacher most likely to share too much personal information with his students. The latter is played for laughs. If you’ve read the novel (I have not, but I did do some internet sleuthing), you already know how this ends.

This might remind moviegoers of the 2000 Tom Hanks’ survival drama Cast Away from the woman’s point of view. In the Hanks’ film, Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland, was a FedEx executive with a live-in girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt). Chuck disappears in 1995, washing up on an uninhabited island, and four years later, builds a raft and is rescued by a passing ship.

By then Kelly has married and had a daughter. Knowing that Kelly now has family responsibilities, Chuck parts ways with Kelly. We never know if he finds another woman to love, but there’s a tantalizing possibility suggested at the end.

In One True Loves, the viewer will not be left wondering about anything.  All the loose ends will be tied up into a pretty package by the ending montage. One True Loves belongs to a genre of romantic films with a little bit of humor, mildly spiced romantic situations and happy endings that a whole network, the Hallmark Channel, is built around.

RELATED: Michaela Conlin sees herself with Simu Liu and Phillipa Soo

Director Andy Fickman is better known as a director of TV movies (Heathers: The Musical” in 2022 and The Crew in 2021) and Alex Jenkins Reid has more experience as a screenwriter for TV as well. This possibly accounts for the TV movie feel. The production values are competent as is the acting, but the dialogue tends to be overly expositional.

Soo’s performance as Emma isn’t exceptional. Liu gives his Sam (a literal Single Asian Male) the bumbling charm required to offset the rugged stereotypical good looks of Bracey’s Jesse. Fans of the TV series Bones will be happy to see Michaela Conlin (Angela Montenegro on Fox crime procedural from 2005 to 2017) as Emma’s older sister but disappointed that her plot purpose is predominately to explain things to the audience.

Having people of Asian descent become part of this film genre is a good thing for representation, but that makes this film worth streaming, but not necessarily worth buying a ticket to see.

One True Loves was theatrically released April 7 and will be released digitally April 14.

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