Book of Love

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Book of Love
dir Analeine Cal y Mayor
scr David Quantick, Analeine Cal y Mayor
prd Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray, Allan Niblo, Richard Alan Reid, Michael Knowles, Naysun Alae-Carew
with Sam Claflin, Veronica Echegui, Lucy Punch, Horacio Villalobos, Fernando Becerril, Ruy Gaytan, Horacio Garcia-Rojas, Sofia Sisniega, Antonia Clarke, Remmie Milner, Laura de Ita
release US 4.Feb.22
22/UK 1h46

claflin echegui punch

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Book of Love
Bright and sunny, this culture-clash romcom throws a stuffy Englishman into lively rhythms of Latin America. Cleverly, director Analeine Cal y Mayor has fun upending genre cliches, grounding the humour in wry observations and superb locations. So even if there aren't any surprises in the plot and the usual final-act formula feels forced, the cast and crew add plenty of engaging angles to the story to make it fresh.
In his first novel, Henry (Claflin) celebrates romance as something sensible and practical. Unsurprisingly, it's not selling well in Britain. But it's a surprising blockbuster in Mexico. So his publisher (Punch) sets him up with social media accounts and sends him on a Mexican book tour to build an international profile. He's accompanied by his book's translator Maria (Echegui), a sparky woman who lives with her grandfather Max (Becerril) and cheeky young son Diego (Gaytan). As Henry encounters unusually exuberant fans, he quickly realises that Maria has translated his book into a trashy romance novel.
There's never any doubt where this is headed, but the textured characters and situations hold the interest, especially with smarter than average dialog. Maria sarcastically accuses Henry of writing from (his lack of) experience. "I made some changes," she confesses, "but only the boring parts." It turns out that she's an aspiring writer who understands his story and characters better than he does. And she delights in mistranslating things around him. But Henry has some surprises up his sleeve.

Goofy without being clownish, Claflin strikes a nice balance in the role as a pinched Englishman who simply needs to get out of his own head and relax. Opposite him, Echegui is terrific as a young woman with a complicated life who instantly sees right through Henry, challenging and provoking him. Their chemistry is terrific. As Maria's thoughtless ex, Garcia-Rojas adds a pointedly dark edge to her story. And the witty Villalobos, as Henry's Mexican publisher, brings a colourful energy all his own.

The narrative takes enjoyably corny turns, including an entertaining look at creative collaboration as Maria and Henry team up to write a sequel. There's also the intriguing exploration of the different ways people approach love, some embracing the passion and others shying away fearfully. This echoes in how Maria notices Henry's confident masculinity, as he's able to admit weaknesses instead of hiding fearfully behind machismo. And for fans of swoony romance, that's here too of course.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 1.Feb.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall