It’s two classic Hollywood romance conceits folded into one: the unrequited love of a best friend, and the use of time travel in order to win them over and make the day right. It’s My Best Friend’s Wedding meets Big; When Harry Met Sally meets Groundhog Day; and even though When We First Met isn’t destined to be a classic like any of those films, it’s different enough to set itself apart from the pack.
After meeting Avery (Alexandra Daddario – Baywatch, The Choice), the girl of his dreams on one perfect Halloween night, Noah (Adam Devine – Pitch Perfect, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) doesn’t end up getting the girl, instead becoming one of her best friends. Yet the story of his unrequited love takes a turn on the night of Avery’s engagement party to the perfect Ethan (Robbie Amell), when an old photo booth sends him back in time to that fateful Halloween night, so that he can re-do events and make Avery fall in love with him.
With an overly-familiar premise, the first half of When We First Met trots out like every other time travel-infused romantic comedy, with Noah fumbling his way through an evening he knows backwards and forwards as he tries different ways to make Avery love him, ultimately changing the future for the worse every time. It’s predictable, but certainly not cheesy – instead, it’s witty and likeable, as are our core five characters, especially Noah, and Avery’s cynical best friend Carrie (Shelley Hennig). Writer John Whittington (The LEGO Batman Movie) has created characters that are not only well cast but change organically through the story; there are no big corny dialogue rom-com turning points, and the characters develop gradually, you know, like normal humans do.
You slowly begin to realise that there’s no traditional happy endings on the horizon, and it becomes unpredictable, a fresh, exciting turn that (ironically) you don’t expect from a film like this. It’s still happy, don’t worry, but it’s different, a new take on the friend-zone romance concept that’s both outdated and exhausted. It might come as a bit too much of a surprise – at only 97 minutes, the film’s short runtime does leave its more interesting themes underdeveloped by the time they become more apparent – but When We First Met is still a pleasant surprise populated with refreshing characters, made interesting by nice twists and turns, that is worth the slow burn that it takes to get there.