Just in time to set the mood for Valentine’s Day is “Book of Love,” starring the newest version of Hugh Grant, Sam Clafin as Henry Copper, a young, uptight published author who gets schooled on writing his own book thanks to his Spanish translator Maria (Veronica Echegui). The story may be rather predictable, but it has heart and charm as it closes one chapter and begins another.
Copper’s British sensibilities harken back to the repressed Victorian ages which allows him to write one of the worst books on the shelf, “The Sensible Heart.” “Buy 1, take 3” says the sign punctuating this author’s failures until his publisher Jen (Lucy Punch) calls him in to convey the good news: he’s the number one author in Mexico. (Punch is a highlight in this film which could have used a few more scenes with this comic genius.) Jen sends Copper on a book tour of the Mexican regions, guided by his book’s translator, Maria, as he learns that she has turned his book into a racy romance novel. Of course, Copper is livid, but there are sparks flying between the polar opposite writers as, you guessed it, they fall in love despite their superficial animosity.
The story is most certainly flawed with its rather contrived concept and execution, but there’s something about the premise and its characters that is endearing. The performances are frequently over the top, but again, this is total escapism and fun to watch the ups and downs of this relationship, and you stick with it to find out how the screenwriters, Analeine Cal y Mayor and David Quantick, are going to tie up all the loose ends.
Clafin’s charming yet unassuming persona as Henry whose ideals sever him not only from meaningful relationships but also with reality, has the right element to make us cheer for him…chemistry with his costar Echegui. And Echegui’s Maria, a strong, divorced mom who cares for both her grandfather (Fernando Becerril) and her son, finds that perhaps love is a possibility if she’s willing to see it right in front of her. She’s a ball of fire and helps keep the energy and pace of the film going.
Both characters, accompanied by Maria’s son and grandfather, travel a physical and an emotional journey as we watch them all grow. Director Cal y Mayor takes full advantage of the Mexican landscape with all its bright colors and equally vibrant characters, and we forgive the story for any of its exaggerations so that we may relish in the concept of love.
Sit back and pour a glass of wine to watch “Book of Love,” escaping into a land of unrealistic yet entertaining love.
2 1/2 stars