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Review: Getting To Know You (2020)

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Rupert Penry-Jones and Natasha Little in Getting To Know You

Love is sometimes all about timing.  Walking away from it is sometimes all about timing too.  Occasionally we are lucky enough to have the stars align, but in the real world there are often complications.  These are commonly overlooked in a romantic comedy in service of an easier or conforming story arc, a happily ever after.  However, the new film Getting To Know You, from writer/director Joan Carr-Wiggin, places all these challenges front and centre.

Abby (Nicole Little) has just arrived from London to a small town in Northern Ontario, Canada.  Her estranged brother has unexpectedly passed away and alongside his funeral, she is in town to collect his personal belongings from his home.  As she waits at the check-in counter of the seemingly dysfunctional hotel (a running gag), she runs into Luke (Rupert Penry-Jones).  He is returning from his high school reunion, a little disappointed with the way things went.  The two strike up a conversation and end up talking over drinks and vending machine snacks where Abby listens to Luke’s story of the reason why he went to the reunion in the first place – ‘the one that got away,’ his high school girlfriend, Kayla (Rachel Blanchard).

But when Kayla unexpectedly shows up at the hotel, having decided she wants to reunite with her first love despite her husband and kids at home, Luke recruits Abby to help him with a way out so he doesn’t upend Kayla’s family.  Wanting to be the gentleman and not the home-wrecker, he asks Abby to pretend to be his wife to deter the now very-determined Kayla, and over the course of the next two days the lie snowballs through the small town.  The two start to forge a close bond, and in pretending to be a couple start to fall for one another.

Most typical romantic comedies follow a similar storyline – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl come back together, the end.  Whatever complicating factor that causes the couple to fall apart in the first place is either solved or simply forgotten.  But, now invested in the couple, the audience never seems to mind.  What Joan Carr-Wiggin does is make the very realistic and adult challenges her characters face a distinct part of the love story between Abby and Luke.  Abby is also married with children, but neither hers nor Kayla’s husband is painted with a villainous brush.  In fact Abby hardly ever mentions her husband at all.  With no ‘bad guy’ in this love triangle, it means the audience also has to struggle with the moral dilemma of their love story, just as Luke and Abby grapple with their emerging feelings.  What starts off as a seemingly simple love story does have a deeper level of commentary on commitment, marriage, and unrequited love.

While these details in the script add some complexity to the film, any romantic movie’s success is going to lie quite simply in the casting.  If there is no chemistry between the two leads, then nothing that follows will work.  Luckily Natasha Little and Rupert Penry-Jones are a perfect match and their banter often charming and believable.  As their relationship evolves, their struggle to maintain a platonic distance builds an unmistakable sexual tension the audience will fall for.  The scene stealer though is often Rachel Blanchard as the You, Me, Her star brings a feisty, comedic touch to the film.

Getting To Know You slightly overstays its welcome, a bit over-long and drawn out in sections, but it is a solid, adult romance that is certainly worth a viewing if you’re looking for something a little lighter.  Carr-Wiggin, who has been making films of this ilk since 1994, has a confident hand and adds some depth to something that might have otherwise become a little too saccharine.  Audiences should find some relatability to Luke and Abby’s story, a gentle reminder of how lucky we can be to find genuine connection, especially now.

Getting To Know You is available on digital platforms and VOD  Tuesday, November 24th.

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