“I don’t know anything about anything.”

This pretty much sums up the lives of every character in “No Stranger Than Love.”

Lucy Sherrington (Alison Brie) is beloved in her community. And by beloved, I mean beloved. There isn’t a single person who can say an awful thing about her. She’s been named queen of the community’s annual jamboree for three years running, every man within a few feet of her is putty in her hands, including one of the high school teens she teaches, the school principal who wants them to run away to Uganda together, and the local sheriff. Lucy is basically perfect in the eyes of her town. She can do no wrong. But this isn’t how she feels about herself. Calling herself “frugal” when it comes to love, Lucy is about to start an affair with Clint (Colin Hanks), the married and nervous-talking gym teacher.

Clint is convinced that he loves Lucy. Loves her more than he’s ever loved anyone, including his wife Verna (Robin Brûlé). The thing about the affair is that Lucy is obviously quite unsure about how she really feels, the expressions on her face hold the truth that is quickly shoved away under the scrutiny of Clint’s giddy and rash declaration. So she replies, “I love you, too,” but as soon as she says the words, a hole opens up underneath Clint’s feet and he disappears into the void. Odd, since the hole seems to have appeared out of thin air and getting Clint out proves to be a problem. Matters get complicated when a stranger named Rydell (Justin Chatwin) arrives looking for Clint because he owes money.

“No Stranger Than Love” is fairly light and fluffy, but often times it can become a bit too sweet, with only just a hint of truth. Think “Pleasantville,” only without the complete and utter destruction of the perfect facade. The film’s central conflict is superficial at best and by trying to shy away from playing into the tropes of a romantic comedy, it struggles to find its focus. It settles into some kind of organized chaos, but to the detriment of its characters.

Lucy isn’t a perfect character, but the fact that everyone else seems to think she is is the significant clue that something is amiss. However, by creating this setting of perceived perfection, a community so polite, modest, and simply so smitten with Lucy that they’re quick to forgive her for anything, rings false on several levels. Her struggles are relatable: Not wanting to settle in love, not knowing how to tell people to stop looking at her through rose-colored glasses, etc. But the film never attempts to further explore any of its themes and forgoes structure and character development as a result.

“No Stranger Than Love” makes some good points, but its message is overshadowed by its avoidance and fear of being boxed into a certain genre. The black hole Clint falls into is described as a “peephole into the vast landscape of our ignorance” because we think we know everything and can “cage everything with words,” so there are a lot of semi-deep thoughts filtering through. The idea is that no one really understands love, not to any full extent. And while this is made clear, the characters spend a lot of time declaring such things instead of developing these themes visually.

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Underwhelming

"No Stranger Than Love" makes some good points, but its message is overshadowed by its avoidance and fear of being boxed into a certain genre. The idea is that no one really understands love, not to any full extent. And while this is made clear, the characters spend a lot of time declaring such things instead of developing these themes visually.

2.5star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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