I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for a good romance film.
Often cookie cutter in their style and structure, there’s also usually a sweetness within them that makes them fun. (It’s this sort of simple structure that has made them the gold standard of Hallmark holiday films.) Even so, because of their emphasis on sentimentality, these films are also usually bland and inauthentic. But thankfully, even though it follows similar patterns to the rest, Sherren Lee’s Float manages to swim where others sink.
Based on the novel by Kate Marchant, Float is tells the story of Waverly (Andrea Bang), a young woman who believes that she has her life figured out. With a medical residency on the horizon, she decides to take a trip to visit her aunt in a small Canadian town. But, after she meets local lifeguard, Blake (Robbie Amell), her solid plans seem suddenly shaky. Instantly attracted to one another, Blake offers to teach Waverly to swim, deepening their connection. But with the Fall fast approaching, will their newfound romance survive the Summer?
Directed (and co-written) by Sherren Lee, Float carries the same sort of sweetness as other romantic dramas yet manages to keep its head above water due to the honesty of its characters. The structure may be similar but Lee never allows her characters to become stereotypes. For example, although she may have made the proverbial trek to a small town, Waverly doesn’t change directions quickly. Unlike other female protagonists in these sorts of films, she thinks through her options and wrestles with their impact on her life. The idea of running after love is appealing, but, at the same time, she wants to do so if it’s the right thing for her future. With these sort of subtle character changes, Lee keeps her characters feeling more grounded in their approach to life, even as love keeps knocking on their door.
However, the strongest asset to Float remains its cast. As the primary couple, Amell and Bang have such joyful rapport that one can’t help but root for their relationship. Bang carries herself with an awkward grace that delights while Amell finally plays a character with real emotion behind him. Together, they are a delightful duo that warms the heart.
Through their awkward quest for love, Float dives into the challenges of opening ourselves up to another. This sort of romantic connection can be daunting for anyone and these characters do not take it lightly.To them, the opportunity to share life with one another is not one to be taken lightly. Instead, it represents a genuine commitment that is not easily made. After all, to find one’s home is to find one’s place of safety.
A place to which you always want to return.
What begins as a summer fling can easily mature into more but is it worth taking the next step? Blake’s life is complicated and pursuing love isn’t a clear path. Meanwhile, Waverly’s relationship with her family and course for the future seem to keep things murky. Float wants to sit with this question for a moment (even if the outcome never really feels in doubt).
But, in doing so, Float takes its love of… well… love more seriously than other films that want to celebrate relationships. As a result, although the tropes are all there, Float swims strongly in a sea of romance films.
Float is available in theatres and on VOD/Digital on Friday, February 9th, 2024.