Romance films have a somewhat deserved reputation for being underwhelming, uncreative, and ultimately little more than cash-ins on adolescent straight female fantasies of finding perfect male companionship despite their own self-perceived flaws. Now, whether that criticism of an entire genre—or its relative valuation against more traditionally masculine genres—is fair is a valid question, but on a case by case basis, my experience with romance properties is that studios and directors find little incentive to bring fresh perspectives to the table. This is why a film like Everybody Loves Somebody is a breath of fresh air in what is largely a stagnant cinematic subculture; it may not rise above the trappings of its genre’s conventions, but it brings enough new ideas to the table that the experience has enough value to recommend.
Clara (Karla Souza) is a gynecologist in her late twenties living in Los Angeles who finds human connection through one-night stands as she watches her patients’ relationships crumble on a regular basis. Her parents decide after forty years of blissful cohabitation to finally get married in their home of Baja, Mexico, so Clara desperately asks fellow doctor Asher (Ben O’Toole) to accompany her as her date. The two start to hit it off, but their budding romance becomes more troubled when Clara discovers her ex-boyfriend Daniel (José María Yazpik) has reinserted himself into her family’s lives.
Now, love triangles are nothing new in romance films, but Everybody Loves Somebody gets by mostly on the charm of its characters. Though it rarely veers entirely into comedy, Souza, O’Toole, and Yazpik have a casual, breezy, and witty rapport with one another that admirably sells the chemistry and tension between them. Writer-director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta also deserves a lot of credit for telling a bilingual story that paints Baja as a beautiful locale on equal footing with Los Angeles, as well as portraying Clara as a woman in charge of her own sexuality, not demonizing her sexual exploits and even celebrating feminine sexuality through her gynecological profession.
It’s unfortunate then that amongst this novelty and progressivism Mastretta falls victim to some tropes of the romance genre that aren’t quite so forward-thinking. Clara’s apparent sex positivity is somewhat muted by the fact that her male counterparts are continually pressuring her into romantic or sexual situations, wherein her conflict is who she is meant to please. It plays into her own internal struggle with the impermanence of relationships, but it’s still disappointing to see a character so in charge of her own life invest her romantic prospects in such domineering personalities. It’s also unfortunate that the men serve primarily as mouthpieces to spell out Clara’s insecurities for the audience, which lacks subtlety and makes the men come across at times as unintentional jerks.
But again, this is largely counteracted by the sheer natural charm of the performances, which make up for a lot of the faults even as they do nothing to mask them. Everybody Loves Somebody is not a revolutionary film by any stretch, nor is it likely to draw anyone who isn’t already interested in the romance genre, but it has a charm and wit of its own that places it a head above much of the competition.