Love Possibly

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Love Possibly is a riff on Love Actually, obviously, a romantic comedy about the hopelessly mismatched being manoeuvred together by fate and circumstance. If only it weren’t done in the mock documentary style. If only.

It was made in 2018 when the mock-doc genre was even more overcooked than it is now (writing this in 2023) and like its sibling, the found-footage horror, was finally beginning to hit exhaustion point.

But. The acting is good. In fact the acting is its saving grace. Steve Hodgetts deserves awards for dicing with typecasting death for playing Alex, a nerdy, spoddy, on-the-spectrum virgin whose favourite film is Sleepless in Seattle and who dreams of having the sort of deliciously impossible and heady romance that rom-coms deliver. Notting Hill. When Harry Met Sally. Four Weddings. All on Alex’s big list of fave films.

Anna Danshina is also entirely believeable as Lana, the hot Moldovan Alex gets in touch with via some online dating site and invites to visit him in London. Julie Nesher as the Russian-speaking neighbour Alex uses as translator/confidante, Michelle Thomas as Alex’s “Ah, bless” mother, wanting the best for her son but with a wine-drinker’s tendency to overshare. Dean Kilbey particularly good as Alex’s mum’s appallingly cocky new guy, another one with a tendency to say way too much. All emerge with reputations enhanced by what they pull off here, which is remarkable considering oversharing is the mock-doc’s character-cliche standby.

Self-consciously following the romcom playbook (boy meets girl, opposites being attractive, the separation event, turmoil and the dash for the finish line) directors Michael Boccalini and Che Grant follow Alex first into his abortive dalliance on the speed-dating scene before sending him off to Moldova, then back to London, where hot Lana arrives with her nephew (son?) in tow and tries to acclimatise herself to a guy who is precisely what she probably isn’t looking for. She possibly also isn’t quite as sweet as she initially appears, which is where the “turmoil” part of the plot comes in.

Lana looks on while Alex points out something utterly unfascinating
Fascinating… just not to Lana

Alex gets the bulk of the camera’s attention, with his incessant, nervous blathering about his hopes and dreams for the future, and his theories about how life works, “knowledge” gleaned from the writings of Nora Ephron, Richard Curtis et al, and Boccalini and Grant aren’t shy about borrowing directly from the greats. Like the vox pops they drop just before the end credits, where old couples share the secrets of relationship longevity (nicked from When Harry Met Sally).

It has its funny moments but the main feeling is of the anxiety generated by Hodgetts’ rather brilliant turn as Alex. And the terrible flatlining of a relationship where there is no spark, no conversation possible, no sexual thrill. Or maybe Lana is going to fall for Alex in spite of his lack of worldliness, precisely because he’s a decent guy in a world full of assholes. Maybe.

Hodgetts does not seem to have gone on to great things but deserves to. Danshina also seems to be bouncing around a bit and deserves better. The charismatic Nesher has done precisely nothing since this film, which is even more bewildering.

It’s a case of right film, wrong time, I suspect, the market being simply super-saturated by this sort of thing when it came out. The fact that Love Possibly doesn’t so much end as just kind of peter out is also a strike against it. And calling yourself Love Possibly also can’t really help. It was originally meant to be called Finding You, which, while less headline-grabby, does at least reduce expectations.

There are good things here, and good ideas executed by good actors who work well together. And like the best rom-coms, it doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body.

Love Possibly – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2023

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