There is no reason to watch and enjoy love stories during any particular season. February is not the only month that ought to get all the credit for being filled with love and romance. Love stories on screen can be enjoyed all year without any inhibition. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, we all crave some romance to be watched on screen, no matter what point of the day or the year it is. Countless romance movies come out in a year, and “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” is to join the crowd and try to convince viewers it is the right time to watch a movie with a whole lot of love to discover. But what if the story is nothing but a washed – out, rinsed, and repeated version of all the movies you have watched in this genre? Directed by Steven K. Tsuchida and written for the screen by Eirene Tran Donohue, “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” is another story of a woman on her way to Vietnam. She is hoping the trip will change her life for the better, and it does. How exactly? “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” is a Netflix Original film that was released on April 21st, 2023, for you to enjoy and soak in all the so-called love that will be unleashed. Except that it isn’t unleashed. Read ahead to learn more.
“A Tourist’s Guide to Love,” an ode to travel and escapism, begins with Amanda Riley and her boss Mona trying to find a way to get into Vietnam as a business venture because, as per plenty of travel portals, Vietnam is the country that must be explored. Using that as an opportunity, Mona is keen on tapping the Far East market to expand their travel company, Tourista, which will help them run their business for a long time and remain a steady competitor in the market. Mona discusses a boutique travel company based in Ho Chi Minh City willing to sell its business to a potential buyer, and she wants Amanda to go all the way to Vietnam to understand the company’s stature and why they are not popular despite getting good reviews from their small pool of travelers who liked their hospitality.
Amanda, on the other hand, is expecting a special announcement from her long-term boyfriend, John. She is expecting him to propose to her after five years together in a strong and steady relationship. But as it turns out, John wanted to announce that he was moving to Ohio for a job opportunity, and his moving to another city would mean he didn’t want to continue being in a relationship with Amanda. Heartbroken over the sudden breakup, Amanda takes up the offer to go to Vietnam to distract her mind from the heartbreak she has just faced. Her business is to find out more about the Saigon Silver Star and let Mona know if the company is worth buying or if it would be a loss for them. The trip to a new country would probably help her find a new perspective and give her head a well-deserved cleansing. But on reaching Vietnam, she comes across a good-looking, English-speaking Vietnamese tour guide at the Saigon Silver Star named Sinh Thach, who happens to be the nephew of the owner. His business partner happens to be his cousin Anh. Sinh Thach, being different from the usual tour guides, helps Amanda see her travel escapades from a new angle. As the days go by, they both seem to start understanding each other and enjoying each other’s company. She also sees how different Sinh Thach’s approach is towards travel. But it is Amanda’s prerogative to eventually let him know of the plan of her boss to take over his uncle’s travel company, which Sinh Thach passionately loves to work with. How will she ever do that, and will she let her attraction to this beautiful man divert her from her actual work plans?
Just like every other film in the romantic genre, “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” ends most predictably, and they hopefully will live happily ever after. But what happens between when they meet for the first time and their love being sealed with a kiss forms the entire film. It can either be interesting, or just end up following the usual path of agreements and disagreements, finding a middle ground and soon the man and the woman fall in love. What makes a good romance film the best are the characters that you introduce, the chemistry between the couple, and whether the attraction they share seems genuine or over the top or if it feels rushed. In “A Tourist’s Guide to Love,” there are all the above-mentioned characteristics that have been tried and used by the filmmaker to make the film seem different and out of the box. The result is that the film ends up just like any other love story, with no depth or emotion to follow and understand. Every love story needs to have depth and emotions to connect with the love the leads share. There must be chemistry to understand the tension palpitating between them.
None of this sadly comes up in the film because the screenplay feels like a checklist the characters are carrying out just to like each other. There are more than enough scenes to prove that the leads, Sinh and Amanda, are going to fall in love. There is no surprise or mystery around them. It seems like with all the conversations and experiences they are sharing; it is obvious what the result is going to be. The screenplay could have been interesting and made Sinh and Amanda’s characters much more believable than making them caricature-ish. There were no layers given to their characters in the movie to make them seem lovable. Sinh is the typical good-looking, lovable man, and Amanda is the girl from the West enamored by the man from the East, soaking in all the culture, and she is carried away by the love he carries for his roots. All of this has been explored plenty of times in many romantic films set in far-off countries. The writer and the director could have brought along another angle instead of sticking to a used and maybe even overused narrative. The narrative is slow-paced for a romantic film, for it takes time for the plot to come to the point that Sinh and Amanda like each other.
The direction was as laid-back as the writing of the film. The montage of the tour group going from one town to another and the shots of all things beautiful in Vietnam felt like an advertisement for Vietnam tourism and more than an actual film about two people falling in love. The deep dive into Vietnamese culture is a good chance to bring in stories from cultures around the world, but again, it felt so detached from the narrative. None of them felt personal, and it comes across as very mechanical. The cliché of the woman in a beautiful dress on a special day is as common as a verdant vegetable in the Vietnamese markets apparently. The climax of the film is silly and predictable because, even though one knows how the film will end, there is no excitement generated when Amanda runs off to meet Sinh and confesses her love for him.
The performances of the actors Rachael Leigh Cook and Scott Ly make the film interesting, but because of the way the characters are written, they come off as cheesy and not something out of the box. It could have been well explored, especially in the end. “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” is an easy, breezy one-time watch about a love story set in the far eastern lands that can be viewed on a lazy weekend. The movie will surely encourage people to head to Vietnam; it’s a beautiful country indeed.