Based on the bestselling debut novel by Cecilia Ahern, this movie, like the source material, is obviously designed with a specific target audience in mind and needs to be judged within this context. Nevertheless, while I would willingly accept that there may be familiar conventions and unchallenging progressions at play, an audience should at the very least expect to be entertained. Instead the film is an all-out assault on the viewer’s intelligence. The story is a paint-by-numbers patchwork of clichés so overused that there is never any doubt as to how events will be resolved, right down to the message in the final letter. The characters live in a world of acerbic sitcom one-liners and romantic hyperbole where marriage and children are the only possible aspirations any woman could have. Grieving is managed by watching Bette Davis movies, jobs are randomly discarded and new love interests are introduced at your spouse’s wake. Swank may be a double Oscar winner but from her opening line, the character she is laden with is only deserving of an award for immaturity. Male characters are wafer thin, with Harry Connick Jr. so poorly drawn he borders on schizophrenic. Gerard Butler may as well be on a box of ‘Lucky Charms’ he is so infuriatingly animated.
The attempts at weightiness are feeble. Ideas such as being true to oneself, the impact of an absent father and the grieving process never ring through – due to both poor plotting and a lack of sincerity about the whole exercise. Events bring Holly and her friends on a trip to Ireland to reminisce on the couple’s first meeting. The segment begins with standard lackluster aerial shots of the countryside – a perfect metaphor for the mediocre filmmaking on display. ‘Oirish’ stereotypes would have been a welcome distraction here and while there are some, there is still no escaping the insipid heroine and her friends who make the prospect of a holiday with rabid hyenas look attractive. The sequence serves as nothing more than filler for a poorly constructed plot. The story lumbers along, riddled with embarrassing scenes so that it becomes a question of waiting for the next set-up to wince at. The story returns to New York dragging the viewer through an endurance test of a conclusion with the final fade to black being the single positive attribute of this film.
The novelty of having a high profile film partly set in Ireland as well as Ahern’s family connections means this movie will be a talking-point come Christmas. Unfortunately for all those curious enough to visit a cinema, the film never reaches above the level of a poor Leaving Cert essay based on an idea stolen from a Mills and Boon novel, ultimately serving testament to the ‘quality’ of female lead vehicles coming out of Hollywood.