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Review: ‘New Life’ rarely explores the depths of love and adversity

‘New Life’
Erin Bethea and Jonathan Patrick Moore in the movie “New Life.”
(Argentum Entertainment)

Although it aspires to be a kind of latter-day “Love Story,” the rote, overly earnest drama “New Life” exists largely on the surface. With its heart-on-its-sleeve narration, time-skipping relationship highlights and generally bland prettiness, the film can feel as authentic as a pharmaceutical commercial — even as it attempts to grapple with some of life’s most real and relatable challenges.

Ben (Jonathan Patrick Moore) and Ava (Erin Bethea) became friends as children, grew closer as teens and endured a semi-long distance romance during their college-age years until inevitably tying the knot. Theirs proves an idyllic marriage — he’s a rising architect in his dad’s (James Marsters) firm, she teaches grade school — until one trauma leads to another and the couple’s future dims.

It’s not hard to guess where this sad story is headed — it really has nowhere else to go. Maybe that’s why the script by Bethea, director Drew Waters, Candice Irion and Josh Spake wedges in a pair of contrivances involving Ava’s best friend, Monique (Kelsey Formost, with a risible French accent), that lead to a mawkish third-act twist.

Despite its share of hospital scenes and pity-partying, the movie is scrubbed clean of any rough edges or credibly raw conflict. In addition, a lack of true chemistry between the otherwise competent leads limits the resonance of the film’s button-pushing emotional beats.

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‘New Life’

Rating: PG, for thematic content.

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

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Playing: AMC Orange 30, Orange; Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26 & IMAX, Long Beach.

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