Netflix UK film review: Love Hard
James R | On 24, Dec 2021
Director: Hernán Jiménez
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O Yan, Darren Barnet
Catfishing might not sound like the most festive pastime, but they make for surprisingly fell-good bedfellows in Netflix’s Love Hard. The romantic comedy has competition from the streamer’s own growing library of seasonal offerings, but where A Castle For Christmas, A Christmas Prince and others can sometimes border on the frustratingly shallow, Love Hard manages just enough substance to make its familiar rom-com beats enjoyable.
Nina Dobrev stars as Natalie, a Los Angeles dating columnist who makes a living (somehow) off writing about her disastrous love life. When her friend recommends that she tries looking farther afield for a potential boyfriend, she winds up chatting to a guy in Lake Placid, New York – and, on a whim, decides to travel all the way to his home town for Christmas. She even gets a commission off the back of it to write up her unlikely quest.
But when she gets there, she finds out that he’s not the handsome, hunky Tag (Darren Barnet), but the diminutive, dorky Josh (Jimmy O Yang). And so she has to pretend to be his girlfriend to avoid embarrassing Josh in front of his family, while also using Josh’s knowledge of the real Tag to convince him that she’s the woman of her dreams. The result is two different rom-com staples mashed together, but Danny Mackey and Rebecca Ewing’s script finds its charm in that conflicting juxtaposition, as Natalie complains about a lack of trust on the one hand while lying to someone else with the other.
That’s not to say that this is an eye-opening game-changer, but it’s smart enough to understand its themes and call out the problematic elements of the genre – and that even extends, in one brilliant moment, to a more consensual, less disturbing cover version of Baby It’s Cold Outside. Throw in a Love Actually homage and genuine chemistry between the amusing Yang and the likeable Dobrev and you have just the thing to stick on in the background while wrapping presents. Catfishing and Christmas? Maybe they’re not such an odd match after all.