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Review: Book of Love (2022)

Book of Love is a bizarre film. Some of the choices made in its production turn what would have been a predictable rom-com with a clever premise into a truly unusual watch.

Book of Love is a bizarre film. Some of the choices made in its production turn what would have been a predictable rom-com with a clever premise into a truly unusual watch.

The film follows uptight English novelist Henry Copper (Sam Claflin), whose recent work of boring drivel–a prudish romance novel called ‘The Sensible Heart’–is a critical and commercial flop. Six months after its disastrous publication, Henry’s publisher tells him that his book is number one on the best-selling charts in Mexico and he must immediately embark upon a tour of the country with the book’s translator Maria Rodriguez (Verónica Echegui). The only problem–unbeknownst to the sex-repulsed Henry, is that Maria has completely changed his emotionless text into a saucy, erotic thriller, and it’s her version that Mexican audiences love.

The film is so strangely paced, in that it spends a lot of time setting up Henry and Maria’s plight without properly resolving it in any meaningful way. He’s inexperienced and loath to the idea of sex and passion, whereas she stubbornly doesn’t believe in love and needs to learn to trust again. This is an interesting set-up, yet it’s never significantly explored. The pair spend the bulk of the film as enemies, constantly butting heads until one day, two-thirds of the way through the film, they learn to compromise and are suddenly very, very in love.

The film introduces a lot of characters who aren’t important to the general story and meander around in the background while you wait for the film to give them something to do. Most (or least) notably is Maria’s grandfather, who’s introduced in a scene where Henry makes the misconception that he translated the book. In any other film this would be a setup, a glimpse into Henry’s patriarchal world view that will later get shattered by the strong-willed Maria, but it’s never mentioned again. Another bizarrely introduced character is the extremely stereotyped (almost offensively so), flamboyantly gay producer Pedro, who flounces around his house dusting his weird plastic fruit ornaments and massive portrait with a rainbow pride flag feather duster. 

A further unusual and distracting choice, one that was definitely a COVID related constraint in hindsight, was the fact that they had only hired ten or so extras. The film makes a big point of the road-trip aspect, showing the characters driving from city to city, only for them to have the same ten people showing up at each book signing across the country. There’s something haunting about it, something disturbingly surreal, as your brain becomes locked in a horrible Groundhog Day mindset as it recognises the same faces over and over again.

Refreshingly, the scenes in Mexico between Spanish-speaking characters are in Spanish. In fact, almost a third of the film is subtitled, with most of the jokes being at the expense of the stiff lipped Henry and his inability to understand the language. Analeine Cal y Mayor’s direction of the Spanish scenes appears to be more natural than those of her English actors–the first scene of the film, set in England, features some disarmingly stiff and unnatural conversations.

Something that I was surprised to find out while watching the film is that it is produced by Buzzfeed Studios as I was previously unaware that they did anything other than rogue quizzes. A quick search of Book of Love on Buzzfeed’s website comes up with some pretty funny results, such as hyperbolic articles filled with gifs of the main actors swooning over each other. They’re titled The "Book Of Love" Trailer Is Here and I've Already Decided That It's Going To Be One Of The Best Rom-Coms I've Ever Seen and 11 Reasons "Book Of Love" Is The Rom-Com You Need This Weekend. Very subtle marketing, guys.

Book of Love really is another one of those so-bad-its-kind-of-good rom-coms. It’s certainly pretty entertaining at points. If it’s on a streaming service that you already subscribe to and you just want to switch your brain off for a while and watch something light-hearted and occasionally baffling, check it out.

 

Book of Love is in cinemas in Australia from the 10th March.
Streaming on Amazon.
Running time: 106 minutes

 
Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Five 2022

EDITION SIX 'RETROFUTURISM' AVAILABLE NOW!

Our last print edition of 2022 is here! This wild, visionary edition is filled with burning nostalgia, glittering hope, and tantalising visions of the future, past, and present.

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