Directed by Ari Sandel, Netflix Original When We First Met follows a young man in love, Noah, relegated to the friend-zone, who finds himself in luck when he finds a photobooth that can send him back in time. Starring Adam DeVine, Alexandra Daddario and Shelley Hennig.
There’s a general rule in time-travel films. It has to have a meaningful story. In the modern era, where we have become used to the time-traveling concept, it is no longer a gimmick to woo the audience on its own. With various takes on the science, movies that suffer are the ones that just rely on the time travel. Director Ari Sandel has trodden on the same mistake. When We First Met begins as a charming story of a young man attempting to get his girl. What it becomes is an irritating Netflix feature.
I must add that this is not the first time that the streaming giant has released a similar time-travel movie. Naked suffered from the same issues. The movie constantly went back in time and, in a respectable running-time of ninety minutes, it felt like you had to endure eight acts. When We First Met is not as bad as Naked, however, it does lean near the same criticism. Repeating the time travelling phenomenon over and over again does not make a good movie. It makes a boring movie.
In the case of the plot, Noah (Adam DeVine), finds himself wishing he was the husband-to-be for his best friend Avery (Alexandra Daddario) at her engagement party. Film-comically drunk and wildly inconsolable, he tells Avery’s friend Carrie (Shelly Hennig) his true feelings. Ending up at a bar where he once tried romantically engaging with Avery, he goes into a photobooth which they both once used. The photobooth is the time-traveling device in this story.
You can guess what the rest of the story entails. If you are a sucker for romance then this film will initially grab your attention. Unfortunately, after the half-hour mark, it becomes repetitive and almost pointless. The point of the film is that he must change how his night with Avery resulted at a Halloween party. That’s where the title When We First Met comes from. Each time, Noah offers a different approach, which has different consequences, and I believe was meant to be funny. It’s not, and the film has a storytelling problem.
The problem is in the writing, as the exposition is insufferable. Every time Noah goes back in time (or forward in some cases), every character is explaining what is happening through dialogue, which is entirely prompted: What’s happening? What am I doing here? Why am I a jock? Why am I rich? Is that my car? Does she just want me for sex? I got it in the first thirty minutes. By the time he time-traveled for what felt like the seventh time, I wanted the film to get to its fucking point. The Netflix film makes no attempt to explain anything with plot progression or action.
The performances are average but nothing to openly criticise. Adam DeVine is rather good at being a clown. He allows time-travel to feel like such a comical event every time he tries to piece together what is happening. The cast does not save this film and it is all very generic.
When We First Met is not awful but it is too simplistic and relies upon the time-travelling aspect to entertain. That is all it relies on. For what was supposed to be a charming romance, we are left short-changed by another generic Netflix Original movie.