by Nuha Hassan
Analeine Cal y Mayor’s Book of Love centers on a writer named Henry Copper (Sam Claflin), whose career is not very successful. Due to the failure of his debut novel, The Sensible Heart, the bookstores introduced a deal on his book: Buy 1, Get 3 Free. Soon after, he receives the news that his book is doing very well in Mexico and he is on a plane for a book tour. He meets his publisher, Pedro (Horacio Villalobos) and a translator, Maria Rodríguez (Verónica Echegui), a hard-working mom and aspiring author. Unbeknownst to Henry, he notices that the book cover and the story are different from the original printing of the novel, and later discovers that Maria changed a few details to make it more romantic. Crammed together in Maria’s red Volkswagen Bug, her grandfather Max (Fernando Becerril) and Diego (Ruy Gaytan) join Henry on his press tour. This whole experience infuriates Henry, but when the publisher asks him to work on a second novel, he writes with Maria and romance ensues.
Book of Love is a charming addition to the romantic comedy genre, with wonderful performances by Claflin and Echegui. The script written by Cal y Mayor is witty and uses traditional tropes, but isn’t an exhausting take on the genre. Maria spends her time “babysitting” Henry, who doesn’t know a word of Spanish, all the while taking care of her grandfather and son, bartending, and writing novels. She struggles to make money, but when the opportunity to translate during Henry’s book tour arises, she is excited. She hopes to leave Diego’s careless father, Antonio (Horacio García Rojas), who puts his music career above taking care of their son. Soon, Antonio becomes jealous of Henry and Maria’s work relationship. Antonio and Henry contrast each other, but Antonio’s addition to the story doesn’t become a big conflict, as viewers might hope.
There are so many romantic comedies of the ‘90s: Sleepless in Seattle, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Wedding Singer, and so on, that are the blueprint of today’s movies. Just like in many romcoms, Claflin plays the awkward, prudent, and scrappy-haired Henry, who becomes deeply smitten by Maria and her words. Claflin isn’t a stranger to romcoms. He has starred in Love Wedding Repeat and Love, Rosie. One of his biggest films, Me Before You, in which he starred alongside Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, is adequate, but the movie lacked the kind of charming energy Claflin often brings to his roles.
In Book of Love, he presents a magnetic performance as he figures out the truth about his writing career alongside Echegui’s Maria, whose acting is a mix of enchanting and steel, thus adding a modern twist to the female love interest in the genre. Their chemistry is electric, and once they begin to work on the new novel, it begins a new chapter in the story.
However, even when Book of Love shows the loveable sides of the characters, the movie still has its faults. Once the movie hits the third act, everything seems to progress faster. There isn’t enough time for the audience to grasp Henry and Maria’s messy relationship and the start of her career, which is pushed to the end of the story. Understandably, Maria and Henry’s romance is the center of the movie, however, it would have been just as important to see her career progress further in the third act instead of a post-credit scene.
Book of Love would have been better if there were a few scenes of Maria and Henry bonding over their romance and book. Even if the supporting characters, besides Diego, aren’t memorable, the magnetic chemistry between Claflin and Echegui is enough to make this romantic comedy memorable. Perhaps, a few years down the line, Book of Love might become a classic movie for the genre, but for now, let’s enjoy the sweet and sincere romance of Henry and Maria.