- While this is not strictly-speaking a Portuguese movie, it is a Portuguese-language one (made in Brazil) and so fit the criteria to be crowned this year’s #Eurovision film.
Love, they say, is a many-splendoured thing; it is, and here the romantics of the mysterious “they” are studiously silent, also complicated as hell.
As the mother of the two lovebirds at the centre of this relatively-formulaic but nonetheless delightfully-entertaining film sagely observes, it’s one thing to find the right person, another thing entirely to make it work, a truism to which the couple in question, Katrina (Isis Valverde) and Fernando (Gil Coelho), would no doubt heartily subscribe.
You know that they are going to encounter troubles down the track, that their meet-cute will devolve as some point into meet-no more, or meet-not-until-the-finale, almost immediately since Amor.com (Love.com), for all its many charms, is not exactly a hot bed of rom-com originality.
From the moment we meet fashion & beauty vlogger Isis, who is showered with the latest clothes and products, all of which find their way into her insanely-popular videos on everything from haircare to dressing right for particular events, and nerdy, computer genius and tech vlogger Fernando, you know it is they, and not the many other beautiful or dorky people populating this film, who will find love true love.
Meeting one night when the fashion store chain with which Isis is affiliated as their party starter, and after a technical glitch, their party saviour, chief promoter and glamour frontwoman, and Fernando their go-to tech guy, they immediately hit it off.
But only after Isis finds out that her boyfriend of the moment – a model who is gorgeous and hence, in the appealingly simple morality of Amor.com, EVIL – has sent his friends a semi-naked picture of her sleeping in bed, and enlists Fernando to hack into phones, servers and pretty much everything else to delete the involuntarily-provided incriminating evidence, do love bells truly begin to ring.
Courtesy of a lovey-dovey montage which sees the twosome grow closer and closer, their two highly-disparate worlds seemingly meshing perfectly together, we see true love take what it is its natural, untroubled course in the opening act of rom-com.
In this stage of our tale of Cupid’s handiwork, the sun is shining, birds are singing and not a moment can go by when there is kissing, holding, staring dreamily into eyes and draping of bodies on couches.
It’s Hallmark love with a capital “L” and an aura of romantic invincibility and certainty so robust and pronounced that they look for all intents and purposes like they will never be apart.
But, of course, being a cookie-cookie rom-com, albeit a damn good one that knows its strengths and plays consistently well to them, that can never be allowed to happen and so we find, through narratives twists and turns, contrived and patently obvious, the happy popcorn eaters du jour coming a-cropper on the rocks of mutual philosophical incompatibility.
Well, perceived philosophical incompatibility anyway.
Fernando begins to think that Isis’s lifestyle, one tightly-bound by sponsors’ agreements, product placement and an air of impenetrable selfie-led beautiful perfection is vapid and shallow while Isis can’t stand her beloved’s constant gaming nights and unwillingness to put as much into the relationship as she is.
Both have a point, but life is never as clear cut as the flawed reasoning of heated arguments and when you dig down – not too much mind; Amor.com only goes down so far – you begin to understand that Isis is not as enamoured of the way she makes a living as she might first appear, and Fernando may not be averse to a sponsor deal or significantly-increased follower numbers as he first indicates.
This is all, sort of, resolved in the film’s third act where they inevitably fall into each other’s arms – not a chance of spoiler here; if you’ve ever seen a rom-com, you can predict where it’s going with eyes closed and an army of typewriter-using chimps at the ready – but Amor.com has a great deal of fun getting to that point, ushering into an upper middle class Brazilian milieu that is replete with opportunity, glamour and the ability to make all the choices and mistakes you want.
Formulaic it may be, but the same could be said for just about any rom-com, and Amor.com fares far better than most in its pursuit of fairy-floss supported, candy-coloured romantic perfection.
It takes two gorgeous leads – Fernando’s physical geekiness really extends to glasses and sloppy clothes; you can see a smouldering boy-next-door lies waiting just a beard trim and a designer clothes-change away – puts them into all kinds of fun situations, some designed to draw together, others to pull apart as the plot demands, and it does just when it’s required to do so, and let the sparks, good and bad, fly and romantic cosiness and Siberia-ness ensue.
Much of the charm can be sheeted home to a buoyant script that never lingers in a scene longer than its needs to, some fearsomely-good world-building into which Isis’s sister Roberta (Carol Portes) and Fernando’s nerdy buds Panda (João Côrtes) and Lante (César Cardadeiro) fit seamlessly and with bravura supporting character perfection, and two leads who share chemistry and a winning sense of wholesome down-to-earthiness that will triumph over all the mixed signals and differing life choices and philosophies that their shared existence throws at them.
In the end, that’s really all you want from a rom-com – a willingness to successful play with the formula just enough for it to be differently entertaining while hewing close to the tenets of the genre, the most critically-important of the lot being that love, in all its many-splendoured glory, shall triumph in rose-petal strewn loveliness, by film’s end.
Amor.com manages that with sighing elan, giving us a happy ending, a confectedly perfect world that is a joy to spend time in even when the happy couple are not so happy anymore, and a little spicy villainy and intrigue to make them the good guys come what may, all wrapped up in the kind of starry-eyed wonderfulness that real life should give us more of but never quite manages.