This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Love At First Sight, the newest teen rom-com from Netflix, came out a few days ago, and it wasn’t a complete disappointment. Now, I went in with low expectations, because I’m not crazy about the novel it’s based on, The Statistical Improbability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, and that always helps.
Netflix has become infamous for their teen rom-coms based on classic YA novels. They started strong with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which made some changes for the drama, but was ultimately a good adaptation. Then last year, they put Love & Gelato out into the universe, which might be the worst adaptation of a book that I have ever seen. Yes, that includes The Lightning Thief. It’s a serious accusation, I know, but well deserved.
As I mentioned, this book doesn’t hold a special spot in my heart. I thought both leads had charm and heartstrings-pulling backstory. I was sold for the long haul, but ultimately, the story ended too quickly for the romance to be satisfying. It barely passes 200 pages. The movie suffers from a similar problem with a mere 83 minute runtime. However, it makes a few key changes that make the story more captivating. Sadly, it also makes some changes that take away from the story. Let’s rank the grievances and anti-grievances, shall we? Warning—spoilers ahead!
5. The movie amps up the romance
This change makes complete sense. Rom-coms should be all about the romance! In the book, Hadley and Oliver hit it off right away, but the word “date” isn’t thrown around. They’re just plane buddies who catch feelings! Meanwhile, in the movie, they can’t stop mentioning how their time together is a date.
The film also adds a moment when they land where Oliver tries to give Hadley his number, but her phone dies, so it doesn’t happen. This shows a clear intention to try to stay in touch, which is missing from the book, and I appreciated how it added to the realism.
4. The movie adds a cheeky narrator
I kind of love how narrators are coming back in movies and TV shows. Jameela Jamil does a fantastic job making the movie quirky and fun with her random appearances as the flight attendant, customs agent…you name it! Unfortunately, I felt like her foreshadowing was too heavy-handed. She would often tell the audience exactly what was about to happen, which deflated a lot of the tension!
3. The movie removes the plot point where Hadley thinks Charlotte is pregnant
In the book, right after her dad gets married to Charlotte, Hadley thinks she overhears Charlotte talking about being pregnant. Naturally, this makes Hadley furious. Not only is her dad starting over with a new wife, but he’s getting a new child, too? It’s too much for her to handle, and it’s also part of the reason that she leaves to find Oliver.
The film version completely removes this tension. In fact, her relationship with her dad lacks tension in general. The focus of the story is 100% romance, 0% dad drama. Which leads us to…
2. The movie cuts Hadley’s mom entirely
Much of the novel’s tension comes from Hadley’s complicated family dynamic. A few years ago, her dad left her and her mom because he fell in love with someone else. A lot of page time focuses on Hadley trying to help her mom pick herself up and put her life back together. This adds to the tension between Hadley and her dad, because she’s angry with him not just for herself, but for her mom too. The movie removes this, probably because it takes away from the love story. However, I would not have minded an extra ten minutes added to the runtime if it came with some quality mother-daughter scenes.
1. In the movie, Oliver’s mom is dying, not his dad—and she’s still alive
When Hadley runs away to find Oliver in the book, he’s at a funeral for his father, who he never had a good relationship with. The scene between them is full of nuanced, complicated pain which makes Hadley rethink her own relationship with her father. It’s heartbreaking in the best way.
However, in the movie, Hadley stumbles upon a wild, Shakespeare-themed funeral (which, seriously, goals?!) for Oliver’s mother, and she hasn’t died yet. She’s slowly dying of cancer and wants to throw one last party before she goes. Oliver is heartbroken because there is nothing but love between the two of them. Overall, I enjoyed this change. It made the film more sweet and quirky, where the original death would’ve made it mournful. It’s not quite as interesting dramatically, but it doesn’t need to be. Every Netflix rom-com should have a Shakespeare party.
Love at First Sight released on September 15, 2023 on Netflix.