Much like its characters Hadley and Oliver’s relationship, the final shot of Netflix’s “Love at First Sight” — adapted from Jennifer E. Smith’s best-selling novel — came about by chance, but Smith loves the twist on her book’s ending that closes out the film.
Vanessa Caswill directed Katie Lovejoy’s screenplay for “Love at First Sight,” which brings Hadley Sullivan (Hayley Lu Richardson) and Oliver Jones (Ben Hardy) together in a twist of fate when Hadley misses her flight by just four minutes. Luckily for Hadley, who usually runs late with a barely-charged phone, her departure disaster connects her with Oliver, with whom she shares the next flight to London. By the time their plane lands at Heathrow Airport, the pair have fallen in love.
Oliver made sure to give Hadley his number when they had to split up so that she could get through the customs line, but a fellow traveler jostled Hadley in the airport and she dropped her phone. Its beat-up low battery died, and Oliver’s contact information was not saved.
“I knew this was a very aspirational idea to miss your flight by four minutes and meet the person who you’re supposed to meet. I always joke that when I write a book, I take a potentially very cheesy subject and try to write it in the least cheesy way possible,” Smith told TheWrap. “That’s exactly what has happened in the film as well. There’s a surefootedness about it. We’re not trying to trick anybody.”
Hadley flew to London for her father’s wedding to his new girlfriend. Hadley hadn’t yet met her dad’s fiancée Charlotte (Katrina Nare), and she remained broken up about her parents divorce years earlier. She assumed Oliver also had a wedding to attend because traveled with a suit bag. Only after her dad’s wedding did Hadley realize that Oliver actually flew back to London for a funeral.
“They’re sort of on a path toward each other. It’s really about two different people who are both growing and figuring themselves out during this day. There’s so much just packed into the day because the whole thing takes place in 24 hours,” Smith said. “You could look at the whole thing and say the entire thing is a gimmick in a way, but it’s not done in any sort of gimmicky way. There’s an earnestness about it that has a dash of whimsy and hope. I was just so happy to see that the tone of the film really matched what I was going for in the book.”
Hadley finds Oliver participating in his mom’s living funeral — his mother had asked all her friends and family to eulogize her in Shakespearian ways. Hadley spoke with Oliver after the performances, but they hit a rough patch talking about their parents. Oliver didn’t want to open up to Hadley while she had already shared a lot of personal information with him. She then headed to the wedding reception where Oliver eventually tracked her down to apologize and spend more time with her at the nudging of his parents and brother.
“I love the ending of the movie. It’s very similar [to the book] in many ways. The one thing that always makes me laugh a little bit is that this book came out quite a while ago. So for many, many years, I’ve gotten messages from readers lovingly teasing me about my open-ended endings,” Smith said. “I think the ending here goes a step further than I did in the book in a way that feels so right and so true to the story that we’ve all created here. It makes me cry at the end. It’s so beautifully done, and I think readers of the book who have been waiting for this for a long time are going to be really really happy.”
The young couple leaves off with a great future full of details mentioned by the omniscient narrator (Jameela Jamil). Smith’s book suggested that Hadley and Oliver would end up together, or that they would at least give dating a try, but the film seals the deal with Jamil counting up their important life events in a style Oliver, who studied statistics, would love.
“The very final bit of the film is lovely and fun and unexpected. And it came about actually talking to the DOP and saying, ‘maybe we should put the end on the end of the film,’” Caswill said. “And he said, ‘Well, it’s not really the end, though. It’s the beginning.’ And I went back and looked at the book and there’s almost a line that literally says that on the last page.”
“Love At First Sight” is now streaming on Netflix.