VOD film review: Sparks and Embers
Ivan Radford | On 18, Dec 2015Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Gavin Boyter
Cast: Kris Marshall, Annelise Hesme
Watch Sparks and Embers online in the UK: Netflix UK Sky Store / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Christmas is a time for love, if you’re in a Richard Curtis movie. Just as word surfaces of a deleted lesbian storyline from 2004’s Love Actually, along comes Sparks and Embers, a rom-com that could easily have been another of the film’s offcuts.
The story follows Tom (Marshall), a marketing type fired from a record company on the advice of management consultant Eloise (Hesme). After getting stuck together in a lift, they end up together, only to break up several years down the road. Meeting up for one last time before she heads back to France, could the sparks of old embers ever reignite?
They stroll along London’s Southbank, where the Christmas market is in full swing – a setting that makes it seem like the festive context is relevant, but don’t be fooled: Christmas has less to do with this than Jose Mourinho’s future does with Chelsea. Really, it’s just a way for the cheap backdrop to look prettier. That, in itself, is a shrewd move, but seasonal goodwill isn’t quite enough to encourage us to forgive the film’s flaws.
Throughout their exchange, we cut to their elevator encounter, a setting that is meant to inspire both romance and comedy. The script’s generic characterisations, though, never quite ring true, from the uptight Eloise, who gets stressed over not having control and likes shoplifting, to Tom’s creative type, who mocks business jargon and laments the state of the world. It’s only a matter of time before one straddles the other, which leaves us with little surprises, as well as little sexual chemistry.
But if the sparks fail to ignite, the embers end up a much more warming affair: Kris Marshall and Annelise Hesme both deliver likeable performances as the well-worn couple, stoking up old flames with a convincing blend of optimism and poignancy. They fight a hard battle, though, against the dialogue, which continues to remind us of the script’s two-dimensional portrayal. The result is a film that flickers into life as an engaging look at how people view old relationships, but snuffs it whenever that past becomes present. You suspect it would work better, if one timeline were chopped out altogether. Maybe it should have been a subplot in Love Actually after all.
Sparks and Embers is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.