If Only (2004)

Film review: If Only (2004), directed by Gil Junger

American musician Samantha (Jennifer Love Hewitt) lives with her British boyfriend Ian (Paul Nicholls) in London. Ian’s a bit of a yuppie and always has more time for himself rather than for anyone else, let alone his girlfriend, whom he takes for granted. He forgets about her big graduation concert – she’s only been practicing for three years – and they end up fighting, breaking up … and while Sam’s driving away in a taxi, it gets hit by another car, killing her instantly.

Suddenly, Ian has to re-evaluate his life, and he realises how much Sam meant to him. Problem is, now she’s gone, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Or is there?

Waking up the next day, Ian discovers Sam is still with him. For some strange reason, they have been given one more day, to re-live the events of yesterday. Realising this, Ian decides to change the events of the day, and bring them closer together.

Also starring Tom Wilkinson as a taxi driver, who either has some sort of mystical powers or is just some kind of guru. That’s how I interpreted it, anyway.

If Only is a sweet movie about a jerk who doesn’t realise that he’s with the love of his life until it’s too late, and then he’s given a chance to re-live that last day again. Question is if fate is fixed, or if it can be changed, which is an interesting topic all by itself.

It seems that with quite a few of these romantic dramas, you need to suspend your disbelief and buy into concepts like re-living your girlfriend’s day and not be a jerk. Fair enough. That’s the basic premise of the film. Where my disbelief is stretched so thinly it snaps in two, which it should do for anyone even vaguely familiar with Britain, is the timing.

We are seriously supposed to believe that after a meeting and some faffing about, you can go on a train Oop North, spend many glorious hours there, then go back to London in time for pizza and then an evening concert? Apparently, the UK is so small that you can travel great distances in the most amazing time! It takes a couple of hours just to get from London to Nottingham, and Nottingham is just the middle of England. To get to the North, you probably need to add at least another two – or more, depending on how many connections are required. But yeah, all perfectly doable in half an hour. It’s like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves all over again, where it takes a man the better part of an afternoon walking on foot to get from Dover to Nottingham. A clue: no. It takes the better part of an afternoon just driving that route!

Love Hewitt sang the songs herself in the film, kudos to her. Ex EastEnder Nicholls is cute, and I thought he was familiar – he was the slimy gym teacher in Faintheart, but I couldn’t quite shake the fact that the film seems to have been filled with what’s basically unnamed actors. It’s a film you’d think would have a higher profile, but apparently not. Love Hewitt has been fairly quiet the past [number of years] and aside from the two leads and Wilkinson, whom I seem to have caught in a fair few films this year, there’s no one of consequence. Not that it’s a bad thing, by any means, but it means that this film will remain obscure rather than getting the press it probably deserves.

Because it’s not a bad film. It’s interesting and romantic, if a bit bland. The ending was … expected, and seemed fair for what they had built up the story to be, even if I didn’t really like it. It fitted in, put it that way. Overall, If Only is not amazing, but it’s certainly worth a watch, and depending on how your waterworks work, you might want to have a handkerchief or tissues at hand. Nearly had me going there for a while.

3.2 out of 5 smashed watches.

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