Nina Dobrev (Vampire Diaries) and Jimmy O. Yang (Space Force) star in Love Hard, a Christmas rom com directed by Hernán Jiménez for Netflix. Dobrev plays a writer who travels across country to visit her online crush, Yang, only to discover that he’s catfished her.
Fans on social media praised Love Hard on the day of release on 5th November, 2021. Many described the film as “cute,” “sweet,” “funny” and “fresh.” Some film critics were far less enthusiastic. Click on the three links below to read critical reviews of Love Hard.
- Melanie McFarland writing for Salon
- Gabriella Geisinger writing for Digital Spy
- Lauren Morris writing for The Radio Times
Morris called the film “cringe-worthy.” Geisinger said it was “a hollow and failed attempt at both romance and comedy.” McFarland concluded that Love Hard “isn’t much to hang our hopes on.”
So, who is right? I think it depends on how seriously you want to take the film. As a genre, Christmas romantic comedies are often formulaic and fluffy. They’re intended to be pleasant, cosy distractions from the world outside. Love Hard definitely works on that level. It’s when we start thinking seriously about the plot that the film begins to look a little peculiar.
Some of the characters react in ways that aren’t quite real. Dobrev’s Natalie is the best example of this. She has no regard for her safety. She agrees to stay in the home of a strange man who lied to her. And she tells lies that require physically risky follow through. Unrelated to all this, despite a severe allergy to kiwi, she downs a fruit drink without checking what’s in it!
To me, Natalie seems like a grown woman as imagined by a child. I worry about screen depictions like this, just in case they set a bad example to vulnerable viewers. But was I thinking about all that as I watched Love Hard? No. I wasn’t taking the film so seriously. I wanted a bright and pleasant viewing experience, so I suspended my disbelief. And I had a really nice time.
There are also good, logical reasons to enjoy Love Hard. It’s not all pleasant fluff and candy floss (cotton candy, yes I’m British). The casting of 5 ft 6 Jimmy O. Yang as the love interest makes a very nice change from the usual. Not only is the actor Chinese-American, he’s not tall and he wears glasses. It’s very refreshing to see rom com heroes who don’t look like Caucasian catalogue models.
Some of the film’s best writing focuses on Yang’s character Josh Lin. There’s a fine tradition in modern romance of the female lead improving her career over the course of the story. In Love Hard, it’s the male lead who makes a personal leap forward. For me, that’s part of the film’s charm and why it feels so fresh. Of course, it’s not the first time this has happened for a man in a rom com, but it’s not so common either.
I’d love to see Dobrev and Yang in another Netflix Christmas movie next year. They are very watchable together. My suggestion is, um, newly married couple foster 101 adorable puppies on Christmas Eve. How’s that for a fluffy holiday movie?