The world of cinema is full of love and romance, right? There are plenty of romantic dramas and rom coms all over the place. Most films even take the time to focus on romantic subplots as well. There are plenty of people who seek out romance in films and love romantic film genres. That is why so many studios take the time to create them. Love is universal which means it can transcend time and space. That makes movies ripe for historical romances like Redeeming Love.
What does this period romance deliver for the audience? This is a classic tale of a perfect (disappointingly dull) lead character who falls in love with (you guessed it) a world-worn sex worker. Of course, she has plenty of trauma and baggage which never once deters this young man from falling in love with her no matter what (without even knowing her at all). This archaic approach to romance is so overdone and underwritten. The screenplay boasts a sea of tropes and stereotypes with only allowing maybe two characters any grey area or dimensions. Our leading lady has plenty of backstory and layers, but the background is quite messed up.
Did the film really need to have abuse, incest, rape, pedophilia, arson, murder among other things? After a while, the film just gets overbearing. There is too much melodrama and back-and-forth storytelling that just gets annoying. There are whole arcs that could be fleshed out into whole stories that are relegated to a total of three minutes on screen. What is the point? Especially at the point that this film is over two hours to begin with. There are so many conflicts, characters, subplots, and shifts in momentum that it is so shocking that they couldn’t have added in any depth to most of the characters. Almost every man in this film is either perfect (with like two of them) or straight monsters (which is most of them). It is hard to feel connected to these underwritten relationships in the film.
Tonally why does this have to lean so heavily into manipulation? Director D.J. Caruso goes for an artificial, high gloss visual palette (even though there is beautiful landscape to lean on). The tonal goes from light-hearted and fluffy love story moments to absolute devastation with recklessness. When the film wants you to feel the love, it plays plenty of contemporary love songs that feel ridiculously out of place. Whenever bad characters are on screen, the score REALLY lets you know it. Unfortunately, the pacing is sluggish as it plods through the 135-minutes of its runtime.
But can the cast raise it up? Abigail Cowen does her darnedest. Cowen’s Angel is the sex worker at the center of the romance who has been through SO much that it is gets ridiculous after a while. Cowen has charisma and presence to shoot some life into this film. Her companion on the other hand is a bit of a wet noodle. Tom Lewis struggles with an accent and a poorly written character with zero characterization. Lewis is a weak link trying to keep this film afloat (which is tough to do when you are given next to nothing to work with). Logan Marshall-Green can bring to life one of the only characters with complexities. He delivers some emotional scenes that feel out of place in this film full of flat characters.
Does this new film capture the romance needed to engage its audience? Not quite. If you are not a die-hard fan of the romance film, this one will leave you frustrated and wanting more. It is hard to connect with characters who are so flat and boring in a film so long and drawn out. This one will leave you rolling your eyes and checking your watches quite a few times.