The title comes from a list our main characters construct. There’s a bit of a shtick here, or at least, there could have been, with a plot description such as this one. It’s pure rom-com fodder and I was concerned that the movie would rely too much on these “ten things.” I was surprised to find that while not exemplary, it had more to appreciate and the idea was merely the basis for the story to grow from, rather than an anchor bringing it down.
A lot of the movie seems to linger in the middle, in flux, rather than truly meeting its potential, but that doesn’t mean this brisk tale doesn’t have some notable attributes under its sleeve. Galt Niederhoffer writes and directs, and does a lot with a little. The construct of the movie, albeit a brief one, flows in a way that makes it a very easy watch.
How Will We Ruin This?
Christina Ricci is Abigail, a single mother of two who doesn’t seem to have much time for romance. She doesn’t seem particularly unfulfilled, clearly happy in her career and with her children, but there’s an obvious hint of loneliness. She is then unexpectedly set up with Benjamin (Hamish Linklater) who feels odd around kids and isn’t on the same plane of maturity as Abigail. Still, the two have an instant rapport, and come up with the cynical list of ten things they should do before they inevitably break up (being that romance is doomed and all).
Despite this random assortment, the script doesn’t adhere to fulfilling it. While they do manage to check off the boxes, it isn’t the driving point of the story. After an exciting night together the two aren’t brought back together until an unexpected pregnancy forces them to. They don’t know each other, but decide to give things a shot, learning to fall in love as they go. Or is it, their eventual end that’s really what we see manifest?
Some of the dialogue is really on point, while other times it feels too heavy-handed, making their exchanges above formulaic but not quite natural. Again, loitering somewhere within the in-between, it occasionally drives a wedge in the movie’s flow, making it feel disjointed. The two actors work hard to make their romance and its deformation realistic, and in a lot of ways it is successful. The casting is a big part of what sells it.
There’s nothing laborious about the movie, as it zips by at 70 minutes. It merely feels like a snapshot into this breakdown of a relationship. I was surprised by the level of humor, but also the intelligence and lack of sentimentality. That’s not to say it isn’t there, but in a genre that can often rely too much on it, that was a refreshing change. There were strong performances by both of the leads, especially Linklater who could in one moment be remarkably charming and in the next- aggressively on edge.
Conclusion: Ten Things We Should Do Before We Break Up
I admire the ending. It isn’t clean and it doesn’t cater to the audience. It is regretful that the movie isn’t more moving, the romance more prevailing, but in a time when things in our world feel especially uneven, the movie is enough to fit the bill. Sometimes we need to see how things end, to be grateful for the things that don’t, and hopeful among it all. For all of its faults, 10 Things We Should Do Before We Break Up will woo you into enduring this snapshot of a relationship set to fail, and keep you with its unexpected poignancy.
What did you think? How did this match up with other romantic-comedies? Let us know in the comments below!
10 Things We Should Do Before We Break Up is available on streaming services.
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