"With a fine pair of lead performances and a decent but far too crowded story, New Life is a harmless, well-meaning and inoffensive film"
I really don’t like romance films. I don’t know if it's my own cynical nature or the fact that as a Scotsman I’m naturally programmed to be in a state of perpetual grumpiness, but regardless I tend to view romance films with a constant sense of disgust and hatred. Sure, there is the odd one or two that managed to crack my cynical armour, (I really love (500) Days of Summer for instance) but this is an occurrence as rare as an authentic sighting of Bigfoot.
So does the subject of today’s review, the romantic drama New Life manage to break through my cold shell and melt my hollow heart, or will it be confined to the towering pile of reasons as to why I utterly despise cinematic romance?
The story follows Ben and Ava, lifelong friends whose close relationship eventually blossoms into a story of love, and tragedy over the course of many tumultuous years together.
The acting on display is hardly going to win any awards anytime soon, but the actors do serviceable jobs with the material their given. As Ben and Ava, Jonathan Patrick Moore and Erin Bethea have great on-screen chemistry with their romance coming across as authentic and believable, often to the point where you can almost feel the loving warmth seeping through your screen like some kind of nauseating gas leak.
Bethea gives the best performance of the pair as her character especially is put through some tragically tough circumstances, with the actress managing to elicit a genuine sense of sympathy, with hear tearful desires to become a mother often being somewhat moving at times, even to a cold cynic like me.
Moore gives a largely fine job in his role, although I was constantly distracted by the fact that the supposedly English Ben sounds less like he’s from London but more like he stopped off in Sydney on his way the States. It’s not a wholly terrible attempt at an English accent, but it does dip into Aussie territory at times.
The supporting cast is also on fine form, although their rather sparse screen time throughout fails to allow them to make a meaningful impression on the audience. It’s just the usual stock romantic supporting players, from friendly loving parents and the central pairs comic relief best friends. Although while watching I was constantly perplexed by Kelsey Formost’s (as Ava’s friend Monique) attempt at a French accent, with it sounding like someone doing an impression of Inspector Clouseau.
Most romantic dramas/comedies often follow one of several successful tried and tested plot lines, whether it be the young lovers, childhood sweethearts reunited in adulthood or a story of love conquers all in the face of illness or death to name but a few.
New Life is perhaps the first film (at least that I’ve seen) that decides to be brave and throws all these romantic cliches into the blender in a misguided attempt to create a heart-warming and heartbreaking cocktail of emotions, often with messy results. I kid you not, this film throws at us; a childhood meeting, a breakup, a reunion, marriage, pregnancy, a miscarriage and a cancer battle within (again I kid you not) the first 35 minutes of the film.
This act of cramming everything together to tell the “complete story” of Ben and Ava’s life together is why this film fails, with the sheer amount of story barely being given time to breath within the film’s rather tight 80-90 minute runtime.
The crammed storyline is not helped by the fact that the film is a rather bland pedestrian affair awash in the usual cliches and tropes that you’ve seen done a million times before in romance films of past and that you’ll see a million times again in romance films of the future. Quite frankly the film plays like the kind of made for TV fare that clogs the afternoon schedules on Channel 5.
With a fine pair of lead performances and a decent but far too crowded story, New Life is a harmless, well-meaning and inoffensive film that, while hardly original or memorable, is far from being the worst film in the world, but it’s a long way from being a good film. In short, it’s just another reason why I hate romance films.