The Broken Hearts Gallery

The Broken Hearts Gallery is sunny and joyful and optimistic. I didn't realize how much I needed those things in a movie right now until I watched it. The film adheres pretty firmly to the age-old rom-com formula. Boy and girl have a meet-cute. A point comes where it looks like they're done for good after an ex shows up. There's a finale in which one person has to run across town to declare their love for another person before it's too late. We've seen it all before, but sharp dialogue and appealing performances make the formula work once more.

Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers) plays Lucy Gulliver, a young woman who has just lost her boyfriend and her job at an art gallery. She hops into a car belonging to Nick (Stranger Things' Dacre Montgomery), mistaking it for an Uber. Recognizing that she's having a bad night, he kindly drives her home. They run into each other again not long after, and Nick takes her to the old hotel he's fixing up. A hoarder of trinkets from past relationships, Lucy spontaneously hangs a tie belonging to her ex-boyfriend from a nail on the wall, then suggests part of the space could be used as an art exhibition, where people can “let go” of failed romances by adding to it.

If you guessed that Lucy's idea takes off, and that she and Nick fall in love in the process, you've obviously seen a romantic-comedy before. The Broken Hearts Gallery does a smart thing in delaying their passion for each other until more than an hour into the movie. Here's a rare case where two characters get to know each other first and become friends before falling head over heels. Allowing us to spend that time with them gets us more invested in what happens. We come to like these people, so we want to see them happy. It additionally has the effect of making the bond between them feel genuine.

The Broken Hearts Gallery was written and directed by Natalie Krinsky, who previously wrote for the TV series Gossip Girl. Her screenplay is filled with witty one liners and perceptive dialogue. These characters are smart. They have perspectives on life, love, and jobs. They understand pop culture. In other words, they're the kind of people you want to spend two hours with. Krinsky's central premise is relatable, too. The story revolves around the idea that it can be hard to let go when a relationship ends. Lucy, as quirky best friends Amanda (Molly Gordon) and Nadine (Phillipa Soo) point out, obsessively holds on to things that remind her of romances that didn't work out. Doing so prevents her from moving forward in an emotionally healthy manner.

By far, the movie's biggest asset is Geraldine Viswanathan. Big things seem to be in store for her. The actress is effortlessly funny and charming. Like Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping, she shows that she can be an “America's Sweetheart” type, but with substance rather than vapidity. Viswanathan is in the vast majority of scenes, and she can absolutely carry a picture. Combined with her dramatic turn in the recent HBO film Bad Education, this year has put her on the map in a big way.

Certain story points in The Broken Hearts Gallery are predictable, and the third act contorts itself a little too much to create drama. I really didn't mind too much, though. The movie has a lot of laughs, as well as a great big heart. Viswanathan and Montgomery work up a chemistry that's sweet, which makes us root for Lucy and Nick to work through their respective issues and find happiness together. How nice to see a modern rom-com where you actually care about the couple at the center.

out of four

The Broken Hearts Gallery is rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout and some crude references, strong language and drug references. The running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.