- Film & TV
- 22 Aug 19
Pretty but predictable YA romance overwhelms its substance with fluff.
If you’ve ever felt that coincidence-ridden romance films should just skip the over-plotted meet-cutes and emblazon the words ‘Deus Ex Machina’ across the characters’ costumes instead – well, you’re in luck. A jacket emblazoned with the phrase becomes the basis of young love in Ry Russo-Young’s adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s bestselling YA novel.
Yara Shahidi (Black-ish, Grown-ish) and Charles Melton (Riverdale) play our impossibly gorgeous star-crossed lovers Natasha and Daniel, who literally collide during a day of high-stakes. Cynical seventeen year old Natasha is trying to convince a lawyer to prevent her family from being deported back to Jamaica after her father’s workplace was raided by ICE. Daniel, a Korean-American and aspiring poet, has an interview to study medicine at Dartmouth – his parents’ dream, not his. When both of their appointments get rescheduled, they suddenly have an afternoon free – just enough time, Daniel asserts, to convince Natasha that true love not only exists, but is standing right in front of her.
Unfortunately, the film is overwhelmed by its reliance on romantic cliché. New York is represented through gauzy, shimmering, tourist-friendly B-roll of Grand Central Station and skyscrapers, while the actors struggle with the awkward dialogue. Also, at 28, Melton’s aggressive wooing of a teenage girl frankly looks predatory. The film’s struggle to authentically represent its characters’ realities is exemplified by a daringly realistic ending – that is immediately ruined by an eye-rolling coda. Pretty, potential-filled, and ultimately a let-down.