For the star-crossed duo in the British comedy "Love, Rosie," timing is an ongoing problem. It becomes one for the audience as well: Watching lifelong friends, clearly destined for each other, miss the romantic boat over and over is entertaining at first, but soon their tortuous and silly road to the inevitable provokes only impatience.
Scripted by Juliette Towhidi from a novel by "P.S. I Love You" author Cecelia Ahern, the film is not without flashes of charm amid its clichés, and leads Lily Collins and Sam Claflin pine for each other prettily. Their delayed gratification plays out over a dozen years, after an alcohol-fueled miscommunication about their one serious kiss.
Alex heads to Harvard, Rosie puts her hotelier dreams on hold to become a single mother, and they maintain their bond through transatlantic texts and (gasp!) letters — all while pursuing relationships with people who are so obviously wrong for them they might as well wear flashing red lights.
The film is stronger in its early sections, enlivened by a forthrightness about sex. In a nice touch, Rosie is the more experienced of the two. Collins conveys fortitude and resilience, along with comic flair, while Claflin channels Hugh Grant, the stammering sincerity turning into self-conscious shtick just as it did for Grant. But Rosie and Alex are, finally, as paper-thin as the collection of types who surround them.
Director Christian Ditter opts for close-ups as the movie's default mode, and although Collins ("The Mortal Instruments") and Claflin ("The Hunger Games" movies) hold the screen exceptionally well, the camera's persistent intimacy suggests that what's unfolding is a melodrama of monumental proportions and not a flimsy rom-com.
MPAA rating: R for language, sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.