Netflix rom-coms are basically all travelogues at this point. There was Love in the Villa last year, which had the leads swanning about in Verona, and this year, Rachael Leigh Cook’s Amanda Riley is eat-pray-loving her way through Vietnam. I will absolutely never recommend Love in the Villa, but A Tourist’s Guide to Love is a different breed of fish. While there are familiar and cliché tropes at play, there’s enough good stuff to make this an enjoyable watch.
Amanda starts the movie excited about the possibility of getting engaged to her boyfriend of five years, John (Ben Feldman). But John has other ideas. Amanda thinks he’s about to pop the question, but what he actually does is propose a hiatus from their relationship as he’s moving to Ohio for work. Devastated, Amanda decides to accept her boss’ suggestion that she take a trip to Vietnam, and sleuth out the local travel company they’re thinking of buying out. A broken-hearted woman using travel to heal is a tale as old as time, but I don’t think this movie’s aspiring for any originality awards so that’s fine.
When she arrives in Vietnam, she meets Sinh (Scott Ly), the travel guide in charge of the tour. There’s some banter, some measure of attraction, and we immediately know what’s in store. Cook and Ly do take a while to warm up on screen together, and initially, I wasn’t sure they would have enough chemistry to keep the viewer entertained. But after Ly gamely emerges from the water like some sexy Poseidon – a callback to that Ursula Andress moment in Dr No, though many might be more familiar with Daniel Craig’s attempt – the sparks between the two start to fly.
I love that we have an Asian romantic male lead in this film, especially a dreamboat like Ly. As Sinh, he’s charming, witty, and thoughtful. He has ambitions and passions of his own, and doesn’t merely exist to love and adore Amanda. Cook’s Amanda, though the typical type A personality we usually see in rom-com female leads, still finds a way to be relatable. We’ve all had that moment where we think we know where our life is going, only to feel the chair yanked out from underneath us. We flap our hands about to keep our balance and not fall flat on our butts, only to realise that the fall is inevitable. Amanda was so comfortable in her life with John that she forgot a whole world existed outside it, so when she lost him, she let the world in again.
What makes A Tourist’s Guide to Love superior to all the other travelogue rom-coms is the way it captures the spirit and atmosphere of Vietnam. I’ve been to Vietnam twice in my life, once to Ho Chi Minh City, and other time to Hanoi, and this film really made me feel like I was back there – the scenic locations, the bustle, the food, the people – it helps the film feel authentic and not some contrived product that’s merely produced for mass consumption. It also feels like it was made with a lot of love, so massive kudos to director Steven K. Tsuchida and cinematographer Jon Keng, who were able to reflect that through the lush visuals and set pieces.
So yes, while the beats of the story are predictable, The Tourist’s Guide to Love is still a trip worth taking.
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While the journey is absolutely predictable, and certainly unoriginal, there's spark between the romantic leads, and the setting of Vietnam is used to great effect.
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