A young girl sits surrounded by others.

Film Review: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Film Reviews

What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Director: Shekar Kapur

Working Title Films and Instinct Productions
In Theaters: 05.05

I was fond of rom coms until I became old enough to start dating and realized that any similarity between their depictions and real life romance is entirely coincidental. Getting past this and enjoying one requires either a willingness to suspend disbelief or stars who are so charismatic that they make you forget that their characters are the furthest thing imaginable from real people. As such, Shekar Kaupr’s What’s Love Got To Do It It? swept me off my feet with its real characters and believable situations.

Documentary-maker Zoe (Lily James, Cinderalla) is looking for love—or something like it—in all the wrong places, by which I mean dating apps. The pattern of jumping from one bad mini relationship to the next has left Zoe cynical and her mother Cath (Emma Thompson) exasperated. Meanwhile, Zoe’s childhood best friend and next door neighbor, Kaz (Shazad Latif, Star Trek: Discovery), has finally given in and allowed his Pakistani parents to set up an “assisted” marriage with an eligible young woman whose heritage and Muslim upbringing will make her a suitable bride. 

While Zoe finds the idea ridiculous, she pitches making a documentary about Kaz’s search and receives the greenlight to make the film. As Zoe chronicles the process, she begins to wonder if the idea of assisted marriage may have merit as she watches the only man she can emotionally connect with marry another woman.

Western audiences know director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, The Four Feathers) for dour dramas, and What’s Love Got To Do With It? is a major departure in that sense. It remains true to his style with an involving, character-oriented story with impeccable performances. Jemima Khan’s witty and well-crafted screenplay brings the film several notches above average for the genre, giving us real, flesh-and-blood characters in a dramatic and unusual situation that resists feeling contrived and outrageous. What’s Love Got To With It? won me over by making me believe the story could actually take place in the real world.

James and Latif have tremendous chemistry, and they endeared me to their characters in a way that I didn’t think I could anymore in a light genre film such as this, and Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End) is a hoot as Zoe’s dotty old mother. Khan and Kapur have committed to make each character a human being rather than a punchline, and the emotional investment pays off handsomely. What’s Love Got To With It? caught me by surprise in all the best ways. I’ll happily eat crow over this straightforward, romantic comedy that managed to rank on my list of the best films of the year thus far. Arrange some  time to see this with the person you love. –Patrick Gibbs

Read more reviews of romantic comedies:
Film Review: Rye Lane
Film Review: Somebody I Used To Know