Despite its flaws, A Tourist’s Guide to Love is a fun way to spend a couple of hours. It has all the breeziness that makes romantic comedies a comfort genre for many people, but also provides a lovely introduction to Vietnam’s culture and landscapes.
When it comes to Netflix rom-coms, you typically know what you’re going to get. (Aside from a few standouts like Set It Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.) A Tourist’s Guide to Love doesn’t veer very far from that typical Netflix feel, but it is refreshing to see an American film set in Vietnam and focused on Vietnamese culture with no mention of the Vietnam War, which has come to define the country in American media. The fact that it was filmed in Vietnam and showcases the beauty of the country is the best part about it.
However, it is definitely one of those “white American woman goes abroad and finds herself” movies. Amanda Riley (Rachael Leigh Cook) is an American who works for a travel industry company whose boss (Missi Pyle) has asked her to undercover investigate a tourism company in Vietnam that they’re considering buying. She’s happy to go after her boyfriend John (Ben Feldman) surprises her with the decision that he’s moving to Ohio when she thinks he’s about to propose. In Vietnam, she joins a tour group full of interesting people and is particularly drawn to tour guide Sinh (Scott Ly).
Naturally, the film explores the burgeoning romantic connection between Amanda and Sinh (never mind that they live in two different countries) despite the fact that she just got out of a long-term relationship. Eirene Tran Donohue’s script is a bit like a Hallmark rom-com just set abroad but is charming enough to sustain interest in the film if you’re someone who enjoys the genre. Steven K. Tsuchida’s direction is at its best when it’s highlighting the natural beauty and the bustling cities of Vietnam.
Much of the film is centered around Amanda learning to let go of her “cross fifteen items off the itinerary” style of traveling and trust Sihn’s more chill, laid-back way of actually really getting to know the culture of the cities they visit. The big conflict is visible a mile away as the audience waits for Sihn to find out why Amanda is actually in Vietnam and that she’s been lying to him about her job. Still, the lack of real chemistry between the leads is the main issue along with the fact that all the other members of their tourist group are more interesting than Amanda. Cook is a serviceable, but bland lead for a film like this.
Take, for example, the older couple celebrating their honeymoon that they were unable to take when they got married decades ago. Or the woman trying to reconnect with her workaholic wife and too-cool-for-mom teen daughter while on vacation. Or even the college student (charmingly played by Andrew Barth Feldman, who’ll be seen later this summer in No Hard Feelings opposite Jennifer Lawrence) who is obsessed with live-streaming on Facebook. They’re all, unfortunately, more interesting than the character the film is dependent upon.
Still, despite its flaws, A Tourist’s Guide to Love is a fun way to spend a couple of hours. It has all the breeziness that makes romantic comedies a comfort genre for many people, but also provides a lovely introduction to Vietnam’s culture and landscapes. You might not remember it within two months of watching it, but it’s still enjoyable while it lasts.
Should be Considered: None
Where to Watch: Netflix
Living out her childhood dreams of being a writer, just like Jo March
Favorite Directors: Kenneth Branagh and Greta Gerwig
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