Review by Jonathan Berk
One True Loves has all the makings of a modern Hallmark Channel melodrama that invested a little more money into the cast. Director Andy Fickman (Playing With Fire, Parental Guidance, Race To Witch Mountain, The Game Plan) adapts NY Times best-selling author Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel of the same name into this cheesy story of love that is ignored, then found, then lost, started anew, found again, and presumably lost. Confused? It’s really not that complicated, but when the audience first meets Phillipa Soo’s (Hamilton) character Emma, she is celebrating her recent engagement to Simu Liu’s (Shang-Chi and The Legend Of The Ten Rings) character Sam. They were best-friends in high school, but after years apart, they finally found love in each other. Nothing could ruin their happiness, except an unexpected call from Soo’s dead husband Jesse, played by Luke Bracey (Point Break), that he’s alive and coming home.
The film takes the audience through the happy meeting of Jesse and Emma at a high school party that evolves into an unbelievably happy marriage. Jesse takes a job to make a documentary in Alaska where his helicopter crashes and is believed to have died. One of the most melodramatic moments in the movie comes in this timeline, as Emma stands on a pier holding binoculars and looks out into the ocean for Jesse, who was a world-class swimmer, to appear. Michaela Conlin (Enchanted) co-stars as Emma’s sister Marie, who is often shown to be the voice of reason and chosen antagonist to Emma, trying to convince her that Jesse isn’t coming back. Of course, four years later in the present day timeline, we know that he did, in fact, survive the crash.
The audience is thrust into this wild love triangle and shows that both guys love Emma and that Emma truly loves both guys. How’s a girl to choose? Well, Sam suggests Emma figure out what she wants, and essentially steps aside to let her be there for Jesse and figure out what she truly wants. Fortunately, Liu is such a strong actor that he gets some of the best scenes in the film. As a high school music teacher, he’s struggling to keep his personal life from disrupting his job. However, local news has made the story suite public, as it’s not every day a person returns from the dead, and his students and co-workers want the tea. Liu working through his struggles by oversharing with his students are some of the best scenes in the film.
One True Loves premise is too over the top at times, and its heightened drama bleeds into the dialogue. No one is particularly bad, but Liu is the only one who pops. Melodramas often walk a tightrope while trying to balance all their pieces. This one doesn’t fall, but it stumbles several times, and it doesn’t make it to the end without losing some of what it’s carrying along the way.
One True Loves is in theaters on April 7 and VOD on April 14.