The Broken Hearts Gallery is Hollywood’s latest rom-com and, honestly, it’s cute and fun. Starring Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers, Bad Education) and Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things), this is a lighthearted love story built from the ashes of failed relationships. So it’s about life stuff.

Hearts was written and directed Natalie Krinsky. She worked on Gossip Girl as a writer and story editor before tackling this project for her directorial debut. Krinsky also served as one of the film’s many executive producers, another being Selena Gomez.

Viswanathan plays Lucy, who hasn’t much luck in her love life. Once a relationship ends, Lucy takes something from each of her exes – every single time. Her shrine has grown to hoarder levels and when she learns, while at work, her boyfriend Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar, Pitch Perfect) has been cheating on her with his ex, Lucy loses him and her curator job in the same night. Lucy sulks (of course) until she mistakenly meets Nick (Montgomery), a hopeful owner of his under-construction dream hotel. After a second encounter with Nick, Lucy starts the Broken Heart Gallery, a pop-up collection of keepsakes donated by people who cannot move on from an ex. Nick and Lucy from a partnership when he reluctantly agrees to provide space for the collecion in his unfinished hotel and, of course, the two grow closer as a result.

Keepsakes are a new wrinkle to rom-coms since those objects are largely overlooked. It seems natural to keep little things as a reminder, but many refrain from discussing said items at length. Krinsky, to highlight its importance, provides establishing shots of New York City during the opening credits while including digital renderings of little trinkets that, at first glance mean nothing, but have sentimental value for someone else. A rubber ducky, a tie, a jacket, a map, an old boombox – it’s all junk, but they represent so much more in terms of feelings and memories.

Admittedly, I have keepsakes – therein lies the film’s appeal. It’s the best aspect of Gallery and viewers will easily be reminded of “that thing I took when we broke up” while relating with Lucy and her heartbreak.

Viswanathan is excellent in that respect, so much that it balances out Lucy’s more annoying moments – both the actress and the character haeve no problem swallowing their pride.

Another winner is the chemistry between Viswanathan and Montgomery. Lucy and Nick are on opposing ends of the personality spectrum – Lucy is outgoing and honest, an open book; Nick is reserved and distant – he intentionally holds back. Their back and forth drives the story and is obvious matchmaking fodder. It is a rom-com, might I remind you.

Last, but not least, are Lucy’s two best friends – Amanda (Molly Gordon, Booksmart) and Nadine (Phillipa Soo, Hamilton). Krinsky understands the importance of friendships – Amanda and Nadine are friendship personified as they display their loyalty without bounds. Amanda is in law school - she knows how to get away with murdering a slew of Lucy’s exes; Nadine helps Lucy let go (um, somewhat) of those exes since she’s a player who switches lovers as often as a model changes clothes. They provide plenty of comic relief (especially when the two wager on Lucy’s many relationships), are protective of Lucy and obviously love her. That’s what friends are for, after all.

Despite Gallery eventually giving in to the rom-com formula, this is a fresh take on failed relationships and handling a break-up’s aftermath. Viswanathan’s endless energy is endearing, while Montgomery’s Stranger Thngs bad boy persona parlays itself into the reserved nice guy charmer rather well. Also, it must be mentioned – Viswanathan, who’s born in Australia, is the first Indian female lead I’ve seen in a mainstream rom-com since Bend It Like Beckham (released in 2002!). It’s great to see that diversity; please realize, though, Viswanathan is fantastic – she’s deserving and perfect in the role.

And Bernadette Peters is here! Where’s she been? It’s great to see her onscreen again.

The Broken Hearts Gallery is a charming first effort from Natalie Krinsky and is worth a look if you’ve ever held on to a romantic keepsake.

3.5 stars out of 5


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