1 of 5 | Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy star in the new rom-com, "Love at First Sight." Photo courtesy of Netflix
NEW YORK, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Director Vanessa Caswill and author Jennifer E. Smith say their new romantic comedy, Love at First Sight, is about the beautiful possibilities that can arise when people drop their cell phones and interact with their fellow humans.
"It's very easy these days to be annoyed if someone's talking to you on a plane and often for good reason. But I think [this story] is sort of a testament to connection and looking up," Smith told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
Caswill added, "We all need to put our phones down, don't we?"
Premiering Friday on Netflix, the film adaptation of Smith's novel, Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, follows Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) and Oliver (Ben Hardy) as they meet as strangers and bond over a dead cell phone at an airport before boarding a red-eye flight to London, where they will face tense, emotional life events.
Jameela Jamil plays numerous nameless characters, acting as the narrator and the embodiment of fate, making sure that Hadley and Oliver have a magical night talking on their flight and then find each other again after being separated.
Smith said she gets emails from readers who say their habits have changed since reading her book.
"They're always looking around at the gate before they get on the plane. Unfortunately, most of them don't end up next to an Oliver type, but there's always a chance," she added.
Caswill read Katie Lovejoy's adaptation of Smith's book during the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic and described the screenplay as "good medicine" during a bleak time.
"I love how much heart it has. I love how it actually gets to somewhere poignant and kind of painful, in a way and, yet, it's a really life-affirming, joyful, fun story," she said.
"I really loved what Katie Lovejoy did with the script in bringing the narrator to life and personifying fate."
Unlike many other romantic comedies, this doesn't use the trope of having the protagonists hate each other initially, then realize they are incredibly attracted to each other.
"This is a fairly analog story about two generally decent, earnest people who both have their own reasons to not trust love and almost in spite of themselves are falling for each other," Smith said. "I thought it translated [to the screen] really well."
The drama comes not from getting them to like each other, but pulling them apart once they do and then letting them find their way back to each other.
"It's funny. That moment when they first see each other and it's so big and you wonder, 'Where is this is going to go from here?'" Caswill said.
This is all believable and relatable because the cast turns in warm and authentic-feeling performances that make viewers root for them.
"Haley Lu and Ben have fantastic chemistry, but everyone else is just so fun and brilliant," Caswill said. "We got really, really lucky."
The fact that something lovely and unexpected happens when Hadley and Oliver are heading off to do something they're dreading helps create that spark between them.
"They're both actually trying to push away the things they have to get to. They have to go face these things they don't want to," Caswill said.
"They meet at a time when it's quite a convenient distraction and both of them are either not being completely honest about where they are going to or how they really feel about it."
Smith said Hadley and Oliver are both on "journeys to vulnerability" when they meet.
"Because they cross paths and met each other, they almost bounce off each other in this way where they are able to open up more in their own separate lives," Smith said.
The idea for the book came years ago when Smith enjoyed a great flight sitting next to someone, chatting about a book, then got separated at customs check-in and didn't get to say "goodbye."
"I remember thinking how odd it was that you could have this real connection with a person and spend this kind of significant chunk of time and then possibly never see them again," Smith said.
"I've always been interested in these moments in time where days split into 'before' and 'after.' Yesterday, your life was one way, and then something happens and tomorrow your life is different."
From the producers of the To All The Boys franchise, the movie co-stars Rob Delaney, Sally Phillips and Dexter Fletcher.