Marrying within months of meeting, Josh (Spall) and Nat (Byrne) discover that getting to know each other after you’re married is not a great idea. As both meet other people who test their affections, they wonder, is everyone right that if you get through the first year, the rest is easy?
Since Hugh Grant hit his fifties and starting spending more time verbally castrating gutter journalists than charming American women, Working Title, the standard bearer for British romantic comedy, has been casting around for a new poster boy. It is now the turn of Rafe Spall, an actor who has more frequently been called on to be silly in supporting roles (excepting Life Of Pi). Trimmed down and smartened up, Spall doesn’t acquit himself badly at all, albeit playing a character who’s difficult to love. Almost every character here is difficult to love.
I Give It A Year boasts a ripe pitch — should a quickly married couple (Spall and Rose Byrne) stick or twist if it’s not working out? — and Dan Mazer, writer for Sacha Baron Cohen, has written a funny, pithy script. There are strong laughs throughout, particularly from Stephen Merchant as Josh’s ferociously inappropriate best friend and Minnie Driver as Nat’s caustic sister. The ‘com’ part is covered. It’s the ‘rom’ bit that’s the issue.
For Nat and Josh’s relationship to be interesting there needs to be some kind of pull, however weak, keeping them together. Yet they seem so bored with each other, the sort of couple you dread being stuck with. There’s little coming from their alternative partners, too. Simon Baker oozes through his scenes as a smarmy client trying to make his time with public relations exec Nat much more private, and Anna Faris is lovely but miscast as an earthy charity worker who left her relationship with Josh unresolved. We need that one scene showing each couple as blissfully perfect for each other — the heart-stopper. But the heart remains resolutely unfluttered.
The jokes are strong and delivered by a very talented cast, but the heart isn’t there. It’s easy to laugh, but hard to care.