Nestled somewhere between a Hallmark movie and Notting Hill, Book of Love (streaming Friday on Amazon Prime Video) is not a science-fiction fantasy. Not at all.
Nonetheless, this pleasant bit of fluff seems to exist in an alternate universe that’s sorta kinda like our world, but also sorta kinda different. I’ll get to what I mean in a moment.
The plot is simple: Uptight and despondent British novelist Henry (Sam Claflin) has penned a book that’s suffering in the sales department. In an amusing opening scene, he’s reading in a bookstore with an audience of one — and even she leaves without buying. But wait! His literary effort isn’t a complete bomb: It’s topping the sales charts in Mexico. Quick, instructs his publisher, let’s get you on a book tour south of the border, STAT!
He’s on the next flight to Mexico, where he meets Maria (Verónica Echegui), a single parent with a deadbeat ex. We soon learn, as does Henry, that Maria has rewritten his book, adding passionate sex and other marketable matters that lead to its success.
You can probably write the rest of the movie yourself, filling in the mistranslations and misunderstandings, the melting of hostilities and the forced third-act complications. And that’s OK. Romcoms generally aren’t about surprising anyone. They are about charm, and the two leads pull it off even if director / co-writer Analeine Cal y Mayor and co-writer David Quantick are playing it strictly by the book.
But even if you have no experience in the publishing world, you are likely to have some questions about this little corner of the multiverse where the rules of real life don’t seem to apply.
How, for instance, is it possible for a book tour to be set up in one day?
Where did those giant bodice-ripping book posters materialize from for the events?
How is the tour making money? Haven’t these hardcore fans that monopolize the readings and book signings already bought the book?
Let’s back up further. How is Henry unaware that his book has been published in other markets? How has he not even seen the cover, let alone gotten a hint of the translation? Surely there must have been reviews or articles written that helped spur its Spanish-language success? I just checked the website for La Presna, the leading Mexico City newspaper. Two clicks and I had the site translated to English. It ain’t hard.
Show me a writer who hasn’t googled themselves. I’ll wait.
Yes, I know this may sound like a lawyer complaining about proper procedures not being followed in a courtroom drama, but even a cotton-candy movie like this should have its feet anchored in something resembling the world it’s pretending to depict. Right?
OK, maybe none of that matters. Maybe love is blind not only when it comes to a partner’s flaws but also when it comes to gigantic leaps of logic in an uncomplicated romantic comedy, one with attractive stars, an appealing kid, lovely scenery and a few good laughs.
Maybe now that awards season is winding down, OK is good enough. Henry and Maria may not settle for good enough, but a movie watcher looking for little more than a smile could do a lot worse than Book of Love.