What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Review

Release Date – 24th February 2023, Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 49 minutes, Director – Shekhar Kapur

A documentary filmmaker (Lily James) follows her best friend (Shazad Latif) as he goes through the process of an assisted marriage.

Perhaps one of the most refreshing things about What’s Love Got To Do With It’s central relationship is that for a fair portion of the run-time the pair simply come across as good friends. Two figures trying to work out, whilst observing each others, their own individual relationships. Whilst Kazim (Shazad Latif) has chosen to go through the process of an assisted marriage, childhood friend and family neighbour Zoe (Lily James) doesn’t seem to be able to properly start one with anyone – she’s either not looking for a relationship, or simply hasn’t found someone she clicks with yet. She’s much more focused on her work as a documentary filmmaker, leading her to observe Kazim’s family as he prepare to get married for her next project – tentatively labelled ‘Love Contractually’.

The central friendship avoids a feeling of light rom-com fluff throughout much of the first half – although there’s not overly anything wrong with light rom-com fluff, of course. It almost brings that bit more access to the pair and their other relationships over the course of the narrative, especially as the film jumps straight into things from the very first scene where Kazim announces his intentions to Zoe in his childhood treehouse. And from here the cross-cultural observations begin.

There’s a slightly conflicted nature to a number of the points and themes which are brought up in various scenes. A number of them feel somewhat base level, not overly developed as things move from one point to the next; or simply don’t dwell on points long enough to properly have an effect. Yet, there’s apparently enough time for Emma Thompson as James’ character’s mum to disperse some light-hearted unintentional racism – gags which never quite sit well, despite the otherwise delight of Thompson’s presence. In general all that’s covered just gives more for the film to wrap up, or at least include in the final stages, meaning that the final half hour feels rather drawn out due to just how much it has to get in – including certain directions and choices which don’t quite feel right considering earlier tones and developments.

It’s been a busy film before this – largely involving Zoe’s dating life, largely told through twists on fairy tales she tells to her friend’s children – but not quite to this degree. There’s enough to like and engage, and a couple of chuckles dotted throughout, but not quite the big cross-cultural rom-com that it perhaps wants to be. The elements are certainly present, but not always with the right amount of detail and focus to properly get them across with a real impact. Making for a handful of drawn out segments which don’t quite click due to everything else that’s already being dealt with within them. The cast are still likable and there’s a similar quality to the film as a whole, avoiding a distance being created between it and the viewer. Not everything quite takes off, and certainly some inclusions – including narrative beats – feel unnecessary, but as a whole there’s a likable enough film here that keeps you engaged throughout the slightly overlong run-time.

While it might not quite strike all the cultural chords it wants to due to everything it wants to pack in there’s a likable film, and cast, within What’s Love Got To Do With It’s slightly lengthy run-time. Keeping you engaged throughout with interest in the central friendship and a handful of chuckles along the way.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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