Let me make something clear from the get-go. I love inspirational movies as much as anyone. Hell, during this time of obsessive doom-scrolling, feel-good cinematic experiences feel more necessary than ever. That’s why it’s so disappointing that 2 Hearts, based on a real-life tale and featuring not one but two wholesome love stories involving very attractive people, proves so cloying and manipulative. This is the sort of film for which the term “tearjerker” was invented, but this one jerks them so violently you may need medical attention afterwards.
The story is narrated by one of the main characters, Chris (Jacob Elordi, who set teenage girls’ hearts a-flutter in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth), a college freshman who “meets cute” and promptly falls for vivacious fellow student Sam (Tiera Skovbye). A parallel story involves Cuban rum dynasty heir Jorge, first shown as a boy collapsing on a soccer field and subsequently diagnosed with a debilitating lung disease; his doctor informs his parents that he won’t live past his teens.
Not surprisingly, Jorge defies the odds, growing into an impossibly handsome, strapping man (Adan Canto, Designated Survivor, Narcos) whose only clues to his serious medical condition are the large scar on his chiseled torso and a nagging cough. A cough so nagging, in fact, that you begin to suspect he spent his childhood obsessively watching Greta Garbo in Camille. He also finds love, in the form of Grace (Radha Mitchell, Man on Fire, The Shack), a Pan Am airlines stewardess who thinks nothing of holding the terrified Jorge’s hand during a routine lift-off. (Before you send angry missives about the use of the archaic term “stewardess” instead of flight attendant, bear in mind that Jorge and Grace’s story takes place several decades before Chris and Sam’s. Perhaps the reference to Pan Am wasn’t enough of a clue?)
The dual love stories are depicted in alternating scenes rivaling each other for banality and predictability. Chris and Sam laugh a lot with each other, in that spunky, incredibly optimistic way that many adult viewers will only faintly remember from their own youthful romances. Meanwhile, Jorge and Grace enjoy the sort of whirlwind love affair, including spontaneous getaways to luxury beachside resorts, that only lots and lots of money can buy.
By the time Chris, who has a disconcerting habit of pretending to suddenly fall down in a heap, collapses for real and is diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, it’s easy to tell where the story is going. Actually, that’s not fair. It’s easy to tell where the story is going from the first few minutes. Suffice it to say that it’s no spoiler alert to point out that the main feeling you’re likely to take away from 2 Hearts is an urgent desire to check off that organ donation box on your driver’s license. (Speaking of which, can we call for a cessation of cinematic romances using body parts as a principal plot device? With this film coming so soon after the equally egregious Last Christmas, it’s beginning to feel like Hollywood is attempting to shift its business model to black market kidneys.)
There’s a powerfully moving true story at the center of 2 Hearts, and despite its formulaic manipulations the film’s last act will undoubtedly bring some viewers to tears. After all, who doesn’t think it’s a good idea to tell the people you love how you feel about them while they’re still here? Too often, that realization only comes when it’s too late. The good news is that if you skip this movie, you’ll have a couple extra hours to do it right now.
Available in theaters
Production companies: Silver Lion Films
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Jacob Elordi, Tiera Skovbye, Adan Canto
Director: Lance Hool
Screenwriters: Veronica Hool, Robin U. Russin
Producers: Conrad Hool, Lance Hool
Executive producers: Aaron Au, Shawn Williamson, Veronica Hool
Director of photography: Vincent De Paula
Production designer: Roger Fires
Editor: Craig Herring
Composer: James Jandrisch
Costume designer: Glenne Campbell
Casting: Carla Hool, Judy Lee
Rated PG-13, 100 min.