In Drake Doremus’ romantic drama LOVE AGAIN, a young woman tries to find herself through love for two different men. We’ll reveal in our review whether this can be the starting point for an interesting film.
After Daphne (Shailene Woodley) broke up with her long-time boyfriend Adrian and then said goodbye to her job, she moves into the guest house of her half-sister Billie (Lindsay Sloane). Here she would first like to find peace and find out what she hopes for from her life. But sooner than expected, she meets two fascinating men at a party: On the one hand, there is Jack (Jamie Dornan), an ambitious author who falls head over heels in love with Daphne. And on the other hand, Jack’s best friend Frank (Sebastian Stan), who takes things a little easier and regularly writes charming messages to Daphne before he too confesses his feelings to her. The young woman stands between two men, both of whom enrich her life in their own unique way. Daphne actually wanted to stay solo for now…
After her breakthrough performance in the film adaptation of the novel “Fate is a lousy traitor,” Shailene Woodley’s career announced that it would develop as meteorically as that of her colleague Jennifer Lawrence, who was only a year older than her. Woodley was also signed to a major young adult franchise in parallel to her appearances in independent films such as “Like a White Bird in a Blizzard” or “The Spectacular Now”. But unfortunately, the “Destiny” series didn’t turn out to be as big a success as “The Hunger Games,” but instead became a disaster that didn’t even receive a final film. So things became quieter for Woodley, whose biggest role was recently her appearance in the TV series “Big Little Lies”. And the romantic drama “Love Again – Every End is a New Beginning” (original title: “Endings, Beginnings”), which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, will probably not change her current career low for the time being. Drake Doremus’ ninth directorial work not only received largely negative reviews immediately after its premiere, but was also immediately added to streaming providers’ offerings. Something that has happened several times before with Doremus’ directing efforts. “Equals – the future belongs to you”, “Breathe In” and “Like Crazy” were denied their big breakthrough (or regular theatrical release) each time. And that’s because there are definitely ambitions in Doremus’ films.
Daphne (Shailene Woodley) actually wanted to be alone, but suddenly she finds herself in the middle of a love triangle.
This definitely applies to “Love Again”. A film that, like Christian Ditter’s much more conventionally staged RomCom “How to be Single” four years ago, is not about love, but about the time between two relationships. At least that’s how the script Drake Doremus and Jardine Libaire, who makes her debut as an author, establish the premise when they introduce Daphne, who is marked by a relationship lasting several years. She wants to follow the advice of her half-sister Billie and take care of herself first, before she slides into a love triangle with her two friends Jack and Frank through no fault of her own. The problems and emotional conflicts that come with it (Daphne once tells a friend that she feels attracted to both men because they each satisfy her very different needs in life – the conflict that the young woman has to deal with herself is therefore quite real understandable!), however, are not sufficiently developed in the script. Individual lines in the script even make the emotionally indecisive woman appear downright unsympathetic when, on the one hand, she enters into a relationship with Jack and, on the other hand, does not end the chat with Frank that leaves all doors open for her (because it is quite ambiguous). At the latest when Frank points out to Daphne that she is now Jack’s girlfriend, she refuses to accept the name; even if she had already shared an apartment, bed and life with the young man for a few weeks beforehand.
It almost seems as if the makers suddenly realized every now and then that they didn’t actually want to tell a love story – regardless of whether it was between two or three people. Then Drake Doremus puts its female protagonist back in focus – in the truest sense of the word. Camerawoman Marianne Bakke (“Turn Me On”) sticks her handheld camera primarily to the back of the main character’s head. Nevertheless, the film hardly seems to be able to tell us anything about her unless she is in dialogue with two men. Only occasionally can Daphne define herself. For example, when she tells her mother (very strong despite the short screen time: Kyra Sedgwick) or her sister about the past few years. Or she blossoms when dealing with her niece or in a job interview because she doesn’t have to think about her maybe-maybe-not relationship(s). But these scenes are few and far between. Instead, in “Love Again” scenes between Daphne and Jack alternate with scenes between Daphne and Frank (sometimes via cell phone, sometimes in the form of a real encounter). Although Shailene Woodley does an excellent job of embodying her emotional impulses, which vary from man to man, so that her inner conflict becomes palpable at all times despite this “First World Problem”, the film meanders aimlessly for too long in the middle section.
Can Jack (Jamie Dornan) and Daphne be happy?
Fortunately, the script gets rid of the fact that Daphne just has to choose one of the two men early on. But “Love Again” isn’t really that rousing. Because of the rather superficial characterization of the two men, “Love Again” leaves you rather cold as it progresses. The daring Jack can primarily be described as a “charming bad boy”, while Frank is the exact opposite; a compassionate softie, so to speak. The fact that the two men have had a close friendship for many years also adds spice at the beginning; After all, Daphne never knows whether the other person will tell her best friend about their meetings. But at some point that simply no longer matters. The viewer doesn’t know why. As much as Drake Doremus tries to direct his film as free of clichés as possible, he still falls back on stereotypes when drawing the characters. That’s a shame, because in the last fifteen minutes the director returns to the narrative origins. Then he is suddenly very close to the actual main character again and to the topic of self-discovery, which is not at all dependent on the concerns of any man, but doesn’t always work without influence – if you want it to. A very forgiving ending that takes the protagonist seriously and deserves a better film.
Conclusion: “Love Again” is an ambitious love drama about a woman who first has to fall in love with two men in order to find herself. Unfortunately, clichés and a meaningless middle section noticeably spoil the overall result.
Jamie Dornan: Every Ending Is a New Beginning is available to stream in the US.