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Wednesday, May 22
The Indiana Daily Student

arts review

COLUMN: Fate, free will and ‘Love at First Sight’


Everything happens for a reason. A missed flight or a bump into a stranger are not accidents, but opportunities for fate to realize. The one you’re meant to be with, you will be with. It is preordained, predetermined, predestined. This is the story of Netflix's “Love at First Sight” — a story about fate, free will and why we watch rom-coms.  

The film is about two college students, flying from New York to London. They meet at the airport, coincidently get seated next to each other on the plane and quickly realize they are perfect for each other.  

One is American, the other is English; one likes books, the other likes math; one seems to be falling apart, the other seems to be put together. They are not opposites, but they are complementary. The banter and flirtation ensue, and I hardly need to tell you more. 

Rom-coms are exercises in execution, not originality, and this one is quite good. Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy are charming in their leading roles, and the film has a light-hearted quirkiness, in the likes of “Amelie” or “Rye Lane,” that is always engaging.  

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Around the halfway point of the film, the characters depart the plane and go their separate ways, not sure if they will see each other again. From then on, it’s less like a romantic comedy and more like a romantic drama. It’s like the final act of a rom-com, where all the problems and tensions come to the fore, but for the whole rest of the film.

This was a jarring decision, but in the end, I think it was the right one. The film compromises its focus on comedic, back-and-forth exchanges in favor of developing the emotional backbone of the story. This approach yields some genuinely moving moments that would only be possible with the dedication (and screen time) they were given, but to some degree, it leaves you wanting for some of the rom-com tropes you came for. 

But it’s a deliberate choice, and one that earns my respect. Instead of trying to act like the two leads won’t get together, the filmmakers put a face to this unstoppable force — Jameela Jamil, who plays the personification of Fate, always gently pushing them toward each other.  

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However, the film is not saying that fate is uncontrollable or that true love is preordained. “Love at First Sight” instead emphasizes the choices of individuals that shape their fate. Fate does not have to happen, but it will, due to the decisions every individual makes. It is not what will happen that matters, it is how it will happen that does. In that sense, fate and the romantic comedy are quite similar. 

On paper, “Love at First Sight” doesn’t really make sense, at least as a rom-com. But despite its narrative swerves and bold decisions, or probably because of them, it works — almost as if it was fated.

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