One True Loves

Sometimes a movie makes me wonder what the people who made it were thinking. One True Loves is just such a film. Did no one recognize what an idiotic, superficial story this is, or did no one care? Weren’t the actors embarrassed having to recite the hackneyed, poorly-written dialogue? Did a single person stop to point out the logical inconsistences that are riddled throughout? I of course have no answers to these questions. What I can say unequivocally is that this is the worst romantic drama I’ve seen in years.

Phillipa Soo is Emma Blair, a bookstore owner engaged to high school band director Sam (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Simu Liu). Not long before their wedding, her cell phone rings. On the other end is Jesse (Luke Bracey), her husband who was presumed dead after a helicopter crash four years ago. It turns out that he has been stranded on a desert island since that time and is now coming home. (How he survived on that island and got rescued is never explained.) Emma suddenly finds herself in a perplexing situation. Does she go back to the man she’s technically still married to, or continue the new direction her life has gone in since his disappearance?

Okay, maybe you could make a semi-entertaining melodrama from that unlikely premise. One True Loves is below melodrama, though. You’d think these characters would have some complicated emotions about the scenario. Emma has to choose one of the men. Jesse has to face that his wife has moved on without him. Sam has to wonder if he’s going to lose the love of his life because of a fluke. Feelings would be triggered, right?

Not for these folks. They treat the dilemma with all the seriousness of ordering a pizza. Worse, they talk to each other in a lackadaisical manner, using platitudes and cliches instead of baring their souls. Watching them react with such detachment is odd. There isn’t a single emotionally real moment in the entire movie. The film is based on a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’d say the book is probably more detailed, except that Reid adapted her own story, so you can’t claim another writer mangled the screenplay.

One True Loves comes with a handful of preposterous scenes that might make you howl with laughter. At one point, Emma’s sister Marie (Michaela Conlin) literally stops to explain the dilemma to Emma herself, as though neither she nor the audience are smart enough to understand what’s at stake. Later, there’s a scene where Sam plays the piano. The camera is on Liu and his hands, making it abundantly clear that the actor is only pretending to play. (His fingers are in the middle of the keyboard while high notes are coming out of the instrument. That is not how pianos work.) Sam’s whole arc is stupid. Instead of talking to his fiancée about his feelings, he unloads on his class, whose members grow the more he keeps talking. Don’t even get me started on the monumentally stupid ending, which requires Emma to conveniently not know something basic about the man she’s engaged to.

Nothing about this film works. The story is moronic, the performances are bad, and it’s been directed with all the panache of a Hallmark Channel movie by Andy Fickman, whose work includes cinematic fluff like She’s the Man and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. One True Loves is his biggest dud yet. A good screen romance makes you want to cuddle up with your partner. This one makes you want to close your eyes and take a nice nap.

out of four

One True Loves is rated PG-13 for some suggestive material and language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.