‘When We First Met’ Review: Is Netflix’ Time Travel Rom-Com Something Fresh, or a Tired Repetition?

Seeing the cast list of this movie made me hesitant to give it a chance as I’ve not been a big fan of some of these actor’s past performances, but what little the trailer revealed did give me enough hope that this would at the very least be some dumb fun. Plus I’m a sucker for time travel movies, so when I learned that this would play a significant part in the plot of When We First Met, it compelled me to put aside my qualms and give this a chance.

When We First Met centers around the relationship of Noah (Adam Devine), a piano player in a jazz bar, and Avery (Alexandra Daddario), the girl of his dreams. They had one amazing night and he felt that they were a perfect match. She, on the other hand, saw them more as friends. Plus, she met Ethan (Robbie Amell) the next day and it turns out destiny had much more in store for them than it did for her and Noah. Noah takes it upon himself to get plastered at Avery and Ethan’s engagement party and makes quite a display of himself. Avery’s best friend Carrie (Shelley Hennig) offers to take him home, but he has her drop him off at the bar he works at instead. He pines for the day he first met Avery while sitting in the antique photo-booth, the one they so happened to share some candid moments in that fateful evening. Noah wakes up and soon discovers he is somehow back at the day he met Avery. He believes he’s been given a chance to right whatever wrongs he committed that evening, and finally win the girl of his dreams.

This is another in the line of “reliving a day” time travel movies, but it makes an effort to differentiate itself. Instead of needing to learn a lesson in order to progress out of the time-loop, When We First Met allows its protagonist to escape the day and see how his choices impact upon the present Sometimes it is immediately regrettable and other times it seems good on the surface but later the implications are made clear. As long as he can find that mystical photo-booth, he can try and try again. Unlike other movies in this vein, Noah actually doesn’t need that many tries to learn his lesson, nor does it rely on montage to move the story along.

Every actor that I found problematic totally redeemed themselves in this movie. I’ve only seen Alexandra Daddarrio in the Percy Jackson movies and Baywatch, and those didn’t leave a great impression of her skills. She was absolutely charming as all the iterations of Avery. This movie made me want to go back and check out Adam Devine’s work. I think I wrote him off too soon. If he’s not likable, the whole movie falls apart. Luckily, he’s pathetically adorable here and so it’s easy to root for him.

This movie was surprisingly poignant about love, fate, and relationships. The movie seems to be saying that you can try so hard to make yourself into what you think another person wants that you end up losing what makes you special. Moreover, you can focus so much on little superficial things you think you know about a person and not realize that what you thought you liked about someone wasn’t real at all. One of the major themes of this movie is the fact that love is made up of so much intangible stuff. I was not expecting this movie to dig deep and be philosophical.

There was only one small thread that I didn’t enjoy in the movie and that was Noah’s best friend Max (Andrew Bachelor). Bachelor is a good actor, but the character was so problematic. He was a basic bro who always tries to hit on girls with the dumbest pick-up lines. All of his advice to Noah on how to treat a woman is so awful, it’s no surprise that he is single. There is one part where his character shows some depth, but it was so brief and only because Noah’s actions had influenced him in that particular timeline.

The journey that Noah goes through was very satisfying and felt realistic enough, even with the time travel element. I liked that the movie didn’t try to explain that point away either, it just lets it be. I was filled with joy when this movie came to a close and all the threads were resolved. It somehow left me fulfilled yet wanting more because it was just so fun.

4.5 / 5

When We First Met is currently streaming on Netflix.

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