Love, Rosie: timing is everything in this delectable Lily Collins romcom

Sweet without being saccharine, this 2014 gem juggles the dreams of carefree youth and the fallout from when life’s best-laid plans go awry

• Love, Rosie is streaming in Australia on Netflix. For more recommendations of what to stream in Australia, click here

Adapted from Cecelia Ahern’s 2004 bestselling novel Where Rainbows End, the 2014 romantic comedy Love, Rosie follows childhood best friends Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) as they dance around their feelings for each other for more than a decade. Having grown up forging an unbreakable bond built on trust, shared dreams and a deep understanding and appreciation of each other’s peccadillos, the friends together agree to leave their dull, suburban English lives behind for the bright lights and possibilities that Boston has to offer. For Rosie, it’s to pursue hotel management in a quest to own her own hotel one day. For Alex, it’s a Harvard scholarship to study medicine.

Right away it’s fairly obvious that one’s passion for hotel management doesn’t really necessitate upending one’s entire life. But that’s just the first of many indicators that there might be more bubbling away under this supposedly platonic relationship between Rosie and Alex.

Their chemistry is evident from one of the opening scenes, in which they share a drunken kiss at Rosie’s 18th birthday, the moment threatening to expose their emerging feelings for one another. Under the haze of an epic hangover the following day, Rosie recalls the night in horror, wanting to wish it all away – only she’s talking about needing to get her stomach pumped, not the whole pashing her best friend part, which she has forgotten ever happened. Alex takes her brutal rebuff to heart and, assuming Rosie wishes to forget the potential evolution of their relationship, retaliates by hooking up with school bombshell, Bethany (Suki Waterhouse).

Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin)
Love, Rosie follows childhood best friends Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) as they dance around their feelings for each other for more than a decade. Photograph: Jonathan Hession/Publicity image from film company

Simmering with unexpected jealousy, Rosie accepts an invitation to the school dance from “the fittest guy in school”, Greg (Christian Cooke), leading to an unsatisfying sexual encounter and unfortunate mishap that changes the trajectory of Rosie’s life. For the first time in their lives, their paths completely diverge and Rosie and Alex fumble through the ensuing years via video messages, late-night texts and emails all at the whim of an international time difference, ill-timed visits and missed opportunities – sometimes at the hands of others. From goofy and excitable dreamers to young adults reasonably self-assured but still wracked with self-doubt, Love, Rosie makes its couple work harder than most to get their happy ending.

In a narrative spanning 12 years, Collins and Claflin manage to believably bridge the transition from teen to 30-something, bringing nuanced performances that go beyond their changing hairstyles to signify the passing of time. While Collins recently gained notoriety and some derision for her star turn in Darren Star’s light and frothy Netflix offering Emily in Paris, there’s depth to this actor: she proved her dramatic chops in a supporting role alongside Gary Oldman in last year’s Oscar-nominated Mank, and draws on some of that gravity here.

Love, Rosie film still
There are moments of touching pathos among the litany of missed chances and miscommunications. Photograph: Publicity image from film company

Collins and Claflin juggle the juxtaposition between carefree youth and life’s best-laid plans being thrown akimbo thanks largely to a sparkling and well-paced screenplay by Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls). At times it dips into the slightly bawdy, but it also creates moments of touching pathos among the litany of missed chances and miscommunications that the genre mandates.

A welcome addition to the cast is Jaime Winstone as the forthright and endearing Ruby. It’s a role that could have easily been reduced to sassy sidekick, but her often-brutal honesty acts as the perfect foil to the earnest Rosie, whose rose-coloured glasses become increasingly clear as her life’s plans veer off course.

There are a couple of jarring transitions between scenes, and some of the music cues are a little heavy-handed. But aided by a perfectly 2000s pop soundtrack, the gentle direction of Christian Ditter and the dynamics of the core relationship keep the story’s sincerity in sharp focus. Love, Rosie is sweet without being saccharine, thanks largely to the perfectly pitched Britishisms, placing it squarely alongside the likes of Notting Hill or Bridget Jones’s Diary. At its heart is the achingly poignant truth that timing is everything.

Vanessa Cryer

The GuardianTramp

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