You know that feeling you get when you watch a really romantic movie? That clichéd, heart warming feeling when the star crossed lovers finally find their way into each other’s arms? That feeling is the classic sign of a really well written and well performed screen romance. A perfect example of such a film comes in the form of the 2001 film Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale.
Serendipity is simultaneously infuriating and captivating. When Jonathan meets Sara (reaching for the same pair of gloves) on a last minute Christmas shopping trip in New York, their connection is instantaneous. The charming American and the beautiful Brit end up going for coffee together in one of her favourite cafes – aptly named Serendipity – despite each of them already having an other half. In just one evening it is clear that the pair have fallen for one another but cautious Sara doesn’t believe in rushing matters of the heart. Instead, she prefers to leave it up to fate…
And here is the genius of the story. Sara’s decision to write her phone number inside a copy of a book and hand it into a used book store, and have Jonathan write his on a $5 bill which she promptly spends, leads to them parting ways at the end of the night. If either item makes its way back into the hands of the other person, fate truly does want them to be together. The next hour of the film is set seven years later, and, with both characters engaged to other people, it looks as if Jonathan and Sara really weren’t meant for each other after all. The brilliance of the film is that despite how irritating it can get (the number of times either one of the characters is frighteningly close to finding the book or the $5 bill is, in typical Hollywood style, unbelievable) you can’t take your eyes off of it. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale spend less than half of the film’s run time on screen together and yet you can’t help but root for them to find their way back to each other.
Cusack is, as always, fantastic to watch. He brings perfect comic timing to the role, and makes the character of Jonathan incredibly likeable. Beckinsale, however, must not be forgotten either. She retains a classic English-rose type of sophistication while playing the slightly quirky character of Sara, whose firm belief in fate and destiny become the driving forces of the film’s narrative. Their chemistry is undeniable, and the story has an uplifting and almost magical feel to it, convincing you (even just for ninety minutes) that true love and destiny will always prevail. Of course, it helps that the movie is set at Christmas (in both time periods). The snow covered New York landscape adds to the mystical feel, and the festive music brings an inescapable undertone of joy and promise to the film, even at the moments when Jonathan and Sara seem destined to be separated forever.
It might not have won any Oscars, but Serendipity is definitely worth watching – a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of love, fate and destiny, with incredibly watchable performances from both its leading man and leading lady.