‘Love, Rosie’: Rome Review

But you say he’s just a friend

Lily Collins and Sam Clafin headline this adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s best-selling book

A schmaltzy, mildly satisfying Anglo take on the BFFs-to-bedfellows subgenre that’s been seen recently in romantic comedies like No Strings Attached and Friends With BenefitsLove, Rosie offers up another longwinded reason why two best buddies in a platonic relationship should just shut up and do it already. That’s in any case the obvious moral of the story in this contrived, if intermittently charming, adaptation of Irish novelist Cecelia Ahern’s best-selling book, brought to the screen by German director Christian Ditter in an overtly polished version that features a "best-of" soundtrack and two engaging leads whose good looks take the place of good writing.

Financed by the Munich-based outfit Constantin Film, and making its international premiere as a gala screening in Rome, the Lionsgate U.K. release should see decent coin on its home turf and modest action abroad, especially with female audiences. The Film Arcade will distribute stateside sometime early next year, though Rosie will likely find more love when Paramount Home Media puts it out on the small screen.

A gushy cute opening introduces us to Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin), lifelong friends who grew up in a picturesque English town and seem to be inseparable until their lives — especially their sex lives — start getting in the way. About to graduate high school and still both virgins (although the actors playing them look much older, and about as virgin-like as Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth), they find themselves pulled apart by circumstance and their failure to confess their true feelings for each other.

Alex hops across the Atlantic on a full scholarship to Harvard Medical School (somehow he managed to skip undergraduate studies), while Rosie plans to attend nearby Boston College (or is it University? — the film mentions both) until a major monkey wrench is thrown in her direction: She accidentally gets pregnant after sleeping with the class jock (Christian Cooke) and “losing the condom in her vagina” — in one lengthy prom-night sequence that’s meant to provoke major laughs.

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With abortion out of the question (“My parents are Catholic,” she explains), Rosie decides to stay home and raise the child herself, all the while keeping it a secret from Alex. The fact that she manages to actually do this in our Internet age (the film takes place between 2002 and now) is just one of several head-scratching twists in the script by Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls), which relies on any number of movie mix-ups and quid pro quos to keep Rosie and Alex apart for more than a decade.

Stuck in Boston and hitched to a tall, blond American ice queen (Tamsin Egerton) with whom he’s settled down into a life of domestic misery (wait, how old are these people again?), Alex begins to long for Rosie just as she gets stuff in order, taking a job as a chambermaid and reconnecting with the baby daddy who messed things up in the first place. A slew of other coincidences lead to a race-against-the-clock last act, and one in which anyone who’s read the rom-com rulebook will know what happens.

The material mined is nothing new, and both the writing and direction are of a rather generic order, with standardized lines like “I know boy-girl friendships can be quite complicated” meshed in with numerous crane shots showcasing the two photo-friendly settings (with Toronto standing in for Boston, and Ireland for England). Ditter has made a handful of popular comedies (The Crocodiles, French for Beginners) in Germany, and while he’s able to maintain a certain rhythm and polish, there’s ultimately nothing in Love, Rosie that distinguishes it much from your average in-flight movie.

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Collins (The Mortal Instruments) and Claflin (The Hunger Games) provide ample eye candy and create a decent amount of chemistry, even if the relationship portrayed often feels more serendipitous than real, while their characters actually look younger as time passes, as if they were both stricken with the Benjamin Button disease. But there’s no denying an innate desire to see these two find happiness and finally get it on, and it’s that magnetic attraction which holds the movie together more than anything else.

Tech credits are slick in all departments, with Ditter’s regular DP Christian Rein capturing the shenanigans through magic hour lighting and nonstop lens flares. A soundtrack working on overtime includes a playlist of hits by musicians ranging from Elton John to Beyonce, not to mention Salt-N-Pepa’s 1987 jam “Push It” — which the filmmakers include in the scene where Rosie goes into labor. Get it?

Production companies: Constantin Film, in association with Canyon Creek Films
Cast: Lily Collins, Sam Claflin, Christian Cooke, Tamsin Egerton, Suki Waterhouse
Director: Christian Ditter
Screenwriter: Juliette Towhidi, based on the novel “Where Rainbows End” by Cecelia Ahern
Producers: Robert Kulzer, Simon Brooks
Executive producer: Martin Moszkowicz
Director of photography: Christian Rein
Production designer: Matthew Davies
Editor: Tony Cranston
Composer: Ralf Wengenmayr
Casting director: Gail Stevens
Sales agent: Mister Smith

No rating, 102 minutes