Zoey (Josephine Langford) doesn’t believe in romantic love, she believes in compatibility, and ultimately, the latter is what drives lasting romantic relationships. She dismisses romantic comedies and spews cynical remarks while her roommate Elle’s (Mallori Johnson) enjoying Notting Hill. Unfortunately for her, she’s right smack in the centre of one.
Things get messy when she inadvertently causes soccer star Zach (Drew Starkey) to get into an accident, and she gets mistaken for his current girlfriend, who’s also called Zoey, hence the title. Zach’s having memory issues, and for some reason thinks she’s his girlfriend. Things get even more complicated when Zoey discovers that the guy she’s sort of interested in, Miles (Archie Renaux), is Zach’s cousin and is staying with them for the holidays. The premise is very much While You Were Sleeping. There’s also a bit of a wink, wink, nudge, nudge moment with casting, as Andie MacDowell plays Zach’s mom Connie, who starred with Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and A Funeral.
The family’s charmed by her and she gets invited to their annual skiing trip, and she says yes because it’s an opportunity to spend time with Miles. Is compatibility really the best foundation for romantic relationships, or will Zoey’s theory be challenged by the prospect of something other than that?
It’s nice to see Langford outside the After franchise. Zoey’s smart, driven, and it’s always a benefit to have a female protagonist in a rom-com not be an English major. She’s a computer science major, which is in part why she finds herself interested in Miles, who shares her aspirations. Zach, on the other hand, is Zoey’s opposite. He’s a jock, and doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life after he graduates. The movie lets us watch her spend time with both these guys, and Langford has pretty decent chemistry with both Renaux and Starkey. Starkey in particular is quite charismatic, and kind of reminds me of a young Sam Rockwell. The romantic scenes are fairly enjoyable, which is the bare minimum of a good rom-com.
It’s definitely morally gray on both ends, since Zach does have a girlfriend, and Miles thinks she’s Zach’s girlfriend. But hey, it’s not a rom-com if things don’t get a little messy. There’s also the secondary plot of the romance between Elle and her Chilean delivery guy Diego (Jorge López), which is the most bizarre plot point ever, and doesn’t really contribute much to the spaces of the film besides creating utter confusion.
While the film sets Zoey and Elle up as best friends, it doesn’t devote much space to their friendship. This becomes detrimental later on in the last act when conflict between the two kicks in, and we can’t quite relate to the agony and angst that both Langford and Johnson are pouring into it.
The movie’s shot in a pretty interesting way – very indie cinematography with lens flares and moody night shots. In the age of green screen made-for-streaming rom-coms, it’s nice to see some effort. The music, on the other hand, is utterly generic and unremarkable.
On a deeper level, The Other Zoey did make me think about how dating apps have taken over the modern dating landscape, and how so much of these apps are driven by checked boxes and compatibility markers. However, there’s also the awareness that even if the other person has everything we could ever want in a partner, true connection is still not a guarantee. What fuels the romantic spark in relationships is still very much a mystery, or maybe it’s as simple as Zach says, all we have to do is like each other.
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The Other Zoey has the spark of early 2000s rom-coms, and offers its own interesting take on modern relationships.
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