SPOILERS are ahead for Love At First Sight, now streaming with a Netflix subscription.
When it comes to books becoming movies, the general consensus among readers is the source material is going to be better than its adaptation. Much of that has to do with there simply being more time to explore characters and plot between the pages of a novel than a two-hour or less movie. However, in the new Netflix film Love At First Sight, starring Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy, one difference from Jennifer E. Smith’s bestselling novel The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight actually elevates the original story, and the author agrees.
It all comes down to a shift in perspective. The 2011 romance novel about a young woman named Hadley, who makes an unexpected connection with an English guy named Oliver while on her way from New York to London, was written solely from Hadley's perspective. As the book unfolds, we learn more about Oliver and the fact that he was on his way to a funeral while she is heading to see her father’s wedding. However, the Netflix movie tells the story from Oliver's perspective too, and even changes the nature of the funeral he’s attending. CinemaBlend spoke to author Jennifer E. Smith about her thoughts on the major change from her novel. Here’s what she had to say in our interview with her:
That's all Katie Lovejoy, the brilliant screenwriter who brought this to life so well. It is so well done. You know, when she first read the book, she called me and said, ‘You know, this had every element you need to to be a great movie, it's just missing one thing, which is Oliver's backstory because the book is told kind of closely from Hadley's point of view. She asked me, did you have any ideas about what this should be and or can I just really run with it? And I told her to run with it and that Oliver in the book is a little bit of a cipher – you don't totally understand his backstory. He's pretty closed off when they meet and it's only later you catch up on where he's been and what he's been doing. And, I think the way Katie approached it, with the Shakespearean theme, I will say I cannot take credit for any of those parts and those are the parts of the movie that made me cry the most. I think it's just all really beautifully done.
While it totally makes sense that the novel has readers inside Hadley’s head as she goes through her own experiences on her journey to London and learns more about Oliver, the movie had an opportunity to deepen the male lead's storyline, and Jennifer E. Smith is happy the movie’s screenwriter took the opportunity to do so. While Smith was asked if she had a backstory in mind for her character, she gave creative freedom to Katie Lovejoy, who also adapted the ending of the To All The Boys trilogy in 2021.
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I know I feel the addition to Oliver’s story made me buy into both characters in a more profound way, and like Smith, I was crying the most at these new scenes not found in the book. Romance aside, the performances from the Love At First Sight cast during the funeral scenes were really powerful.
While The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight has Oliver attending the funeral for his father, who had already passed, the movie did something really interesting and unique with the plot by having it being his mother as she hosts a Shakespeare-themed living funeral in light of her deciding not to undergo cancer treatment, and simply enjoy and embrace her last days. Hadley meeting Oliver as he is wrestling with his mother’s decision not only strengthened the scenes between them in the second half of the movie, but the film’s messages overall. It was an absolute highlight of Love At First Sight book readers won't even expect.
This isn’t the first book of Smith’s to get a Netflix movie. Last year’s Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between had a ton of differences as well. It won’t be the last either, because reportedly Windfall, This is What Happy Looks Like and The Geography of You and Me are also being developed by Hollywood. Following Love At First Sight, check out what other upcoming book adaptations are coming out next to compare and contrast more movies based on great novels and stories.