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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Love Is Thicker Than Water movie review: so, love is a sludge, then?

Love Is Thicker Than Water red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

This would-be modern Romeo-and-Juliet tale is little more than a pile-on of class stereotypes, contrived dialogue, and one whopper of a coincidence.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Arthur (Johnny Flynn) hails from a family of miners in Wales, and now works as a bike messenger in London. Vida (Lydia Wilson: Star Trek Beyond) is a cellist who makes no money from her music, but that’s okay because her rich parents have bought her an amazing apartment in trendy East London. Now, Johnny is moving into that flat with Vida, and the two families are about to culture-clash.

From the directing team of Emily Harris and Ate de Jong (he’s best known for the 1991 cult film Drop Dead Fred), Love Is Thicker Than Water wants to be a modern Romeo-and-Juliet tale. But what starts out as a study in contrasts between two very different families becomes pile-on of unkind stereotypes: her wealthy family is snooty; his working class family is vulgar. That her family is Jewish and his is not is a red herring, though the movie doesn’t see this. Worse, that ginned-up conflict seems to be a way to avoid the real story of the fundamental problem at the root of Vida and Arthur’s relationship: they’re both on the wrong professional tracks, and that’s a far bigger stumbling block to their happiness, separately and together, than their difficult families are. The film takes far too long to even recognize this in its central characters, let alone address it, and then does so only fleetingly, and mostly offscreen.

Love may be thicker than water, but is it thicker than booze?

Love may be thicker than water, but is it thicker than booze?

Instead, the script, by de Jong, turns on a whopper of a coincidence, and indulges in a lot of contrived dialogue that doesn’t sound anything like how real people talk — sample: “There’s a silence in you. It frightens me.” The movie gets lost, too, in trying to create what is meant to be a sense of intense intimacy between Arthur and Vida: it comes across as isolation. They appear to have no friends but each other, and the film ends up feeling claustrophobic.

The cast — which also features legends Juliet Stevenson (The Letters) and Henry Goodman (Their Finest) as Vida’s parents, and up-and-comer Ellie Kendrick (The Levelling) as her sister — is terrific. But none of them are well served by what is ultimately a shaggy-dog romance.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other releases.

red light 2 stars

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Love Is Thicker Than Water (2017) | directed by Emily Harris, Ate de Jong
US/Can release: direct to VOD
UK/Ire release: Dec 02 2017

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex, sex references)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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