what's love got to do with it

What’s Love Got To Do With It? | Review

Lily James and Shazad Latif star in What’s Love Got To Do With It? which unfortunately lacks both romance and comedy. 


Lily James and Shazad Latif star in Shekhar Kapur’s romantic comedy What’s Love Got To Do With It?, which unfortunately is a romcom with very little romance or comedy

The first thing to know about Shekhar Kapur’s new romantic comedy What’s Love Got To Do With It? is that it has nothing to do with the Tina Turner song of the same name. This is not a Tina biopic nor a witty musical, but by the time the film hits its halfway mark, you kind of wish it was because it would probably have a bit more purpose and personality. 

The film revolves around childhood best friends Zoe (Lily James) and Kaz (Shazad Latif). Zoe has now become a documentarian, looking for her next film, and Kaz is an oncologist. Kaz shocks Zoe by announcing he’s taking the leap and letting his family help him choose a wife. 

This arranged (or assisted) marriage seems archaic to Zoe, who convinces Kaz to let her make a documentary about his journey to find a wife. The two friends constantly clash, and Zoe clearly doesn’t approve, but as Kaz’s wedding approaches, Zoe is forced to take a good, long look at herself. 

what's love got to do with it movie review

Credit: Studiocanal

What’s Love Got To Do With It? clearly has the best intentions. It wants to be a traditional romantic comedy but with a slight twist. It aims to make the whole genre just a bit more inclusive and diverse. It’s an admirable goal, and the premise itself has the makings of a great romcom. Still, the film, written by Jemima Khan, isn’t particularly funny and severely lacks in the romance department. 

Shazad Latif is a formidable leading man, but almost all characters are written as blank canvases onto which we project our romantic ideals. Aside from being a smoker and a doctor, there aren’t many personality traits to Kaz. He’s an easily digestible romantic lead, inoffensive yet bland. Kaz almost doesn’t feel like a real person; he has no edges, no flaws, and nothing to make him stand out from the sea of generic men in these films.

Whereas Kaz is at least likeable, James’ Zoe is mostly just insufferable. She seems to view herself as the victim in any given situation. Kapur can’t decide whether Zoe should be a feminist hero (she tells her friend’s children tales of princesses who didn’t need a prince) or a traditional romance-hungry woman who chooses the wrong guys until she realises Prince Charming is right under her nose the whole time.

Latif and James lack romantic chemistry, or perhaps there just isn’t any time for it to develop or blossom. There simply isn’t enough yearning. It doesn’t even seem possible for a long time for the two to become romantically involved. A better film probably would have avoided it altogether; if Khan and Kapur left Zoe and Kaz as friends who supported each other in love and thunder, What’s Love Got To Do With It? would have managed to shed some of the traditionality that drags it down. 

Emma Thompson is a genuine highlight as Zoe’s mum, and Shabana Azmi as Kaz’s mother. Thompson mostly sticks to her shtick of playing the nation’s favourite tipsy mum, but Azmi works miracles with a relatively small part. She effortlessly switches between warm and embracing and the strictness that most mums embody when dealing with their children’s nonsense.

Kapur films in familiar London locations (although, peculiarly, a Curzon cinema in Mayfair seems to lead out to the Southbank). Scenes filmed in Lahore provide a nice change, but the film’s sense of time and place is wobbly. What’s Love Got To Do With It? seems so plot-driven that there is no time to examine or explore these characters. 

There’s a decent effort to say something meaningful about love, but the film gets too confused about what it really wants to say. Romantic love in What’s Love Got To Do With It? is innocent, rose-tinted and uncomplicated. It’s a frustratingly naive viewpoint, but at least there is an attempt to broaden the landscape of romantic comedies and who gets to tell these stories. 

What’s Love Got To Do With It? is in cinemas on 24 February. 

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