If Only (2004) Movie Review

Paul Nicholls and Jennifer Love Hewitt in If Only (2004) Movie Image

At the risk of losing my non-existent “cool” credibility with the hipsters who regularly visit the site, let me go ahead and say that I’ve always found Jennifer Love Hewitt, formerly of the TV show “Party of 5″, to be terribly appealing. It’s not just the fact that she’s a fellow Texan (although that helps tremendously, as we Texans like to stick by our own), but she has the type of affable personality that if you find her unattractive as a person, there’s something wrong with you, not her. She was the best thing about Jackie Chan’s “The Tuxedo”, and she’s pretty good in “If Only”, a new romantic film with a fantastical twist. Think of it as “Groundhog Day” meets one of Hugh Grant’s romantic comedies.

“If Only” chronicles a day in the life of Samantha (Jennifer Love Hewitt), a precocious American (aren’t they all?) studying music in London, and her boyfriend Ian (Paul Nicholls), a somewhat stuffy Brit (aren’t they all?) financial something-or-rather. I was never really clear what it was that Ian did, not that it matters much. As the day begins, Ian is nonchalantly chalking up negative points by forgetting important dates and just generally acting like a tool toward his sympathetic girlfriend, who seems to want nothing from him except to love him, and be loved in return. At the end of the night, everything comes to a head, as the two abruptly calls it off and Samantha promptly enters a cab that gets broadsided, killing her. It’s only then that Ian realizes what he had, but of course it’s too late to make amends. Luckily for the grieving boyfriend, when he wakes up the next morning, Samantha is alive again. Even stranger, he’s reliving that fateful day, and he’s the only one who remembers it!

Jennifer Love Hewitt in If Only (2004) Movie Image

All of this takes place within the first 30 minutes, setting the stage for the film’s final hour, which follows Ian as he battles confusion, followed by realization, becomes lost in desperation, and finally discovers acceptance of what’s happened, and will happen. Armed with the knowledge of the day’s events, Ian resolves to save Samantha’s life using his knowledge of the day’s upcoming events. But fate will not be denied, and for every negative event Ian averts, a similar negative event takes its place later on in the day. How do you fight destiny? The answer seems to lie with a mysterious taxi driver (Tom Wilkinson, soon to be seen in the upcoming “Batman Begins”), whose only advise to Ian is to “appreciate” Samantha.

Aside from the fact that we’ve already seen star Jennifer Love Hewitt get broadsided by a car and die on the operating table, “If Only” is actually a rather lively little gem. Hewitt is in trademark happy-go-lucky form, but the real heavy lifting is done by Paul Nicholls, whose character is practically unreadable in the beginning. Which serves our muddled reaction to the character, as we are experiencing Ian through Samantha’s eyes — she simply doesn’t understand him at all even after all these years, and we feel the same way after only knowing him for only half an hour. For much of the film, Paul Nicholls owns the movie, appearing in almost every scene. As the hour of Samantha’s impending death looms, Nicholls wholly convinces as a man trying desperately to cheat fate.

Jennifer Love Hewitt in If Only (2004) Movie Image

One needn’t be pre-disposed to like “Jennifer Love Hewitt movies” to enjoy “If Only”. If you have a pulse, the film should entertain you. The script by Christina Welsh struggles a bit in the beginning, especially by indulging in some cheesy “I’m American, you’re British, and we’re different because of this” moments. This is made sillier because Hewitt’s Samantha has been living in London for 3 years, and it seems not quite believable that she still stumbles over British phrases, and in general is still behaving like a day-old tourist. Luckily Hewitt and Nicholls have chemistry, especially in the film’s second half, and this is enough to save the film whenever the script falters.

“If Only” does follow a somewhat predictable course, and the three main characters (Samantha, Ian, and Lucy Davenport as Samantha’s best friend) are not exactly unique creations in the world of cinema. But to give Welsh and director Gil Junger credit, the film doesn’t opt for the easy way out, and the denouement is stronger, with a touch of grit, for their decision. It’s also to producer Hewitt’s credit that she allows Paul Nicholls to dominant the movie. Without a doubt, the movie will be sold as a “Jennifer Love Hewitt movie”, even if the film’s real strength, and on whose shoulders the movie rests, is Nicholls. In fact, the only real “star moment” that Hewitt allows herself to indulge in shows up toward the end, when Hewitt’s character sings for the first time. A ploy to sell more records or a natural compliment to the character she’s playing? You decide.

Jennifer Love Hewitt in If Only (2004) Movie Image

Jennifer Love Hewitt and Paul Nicholls are very charming and sincere romantic leads, and the story is entertaining and suspenseful, with touches of heartfelt melodrama to make the ladies grab for their hankies. The film stumbles a bit in the beginning, but more than makes up for it with an exciting and romantic second half. The fantastical premise is not up for debate, much like the South Korean movie “Some” (which used the same “living the same day over” conceit), which is . Those looking for a slightly ambitious romantic film will find “If Only” more than suitable.

Gil Junger (director) / Christina Welsh (screenplay)
CAST: Jennifer Love Hewitt …. Samantha Andrews
Paul Nicholls …. Ian Wyndham
Lucy Davenport …. Lottie
Diana Hardcastle …. Claire
Tom Wilkinson …. Taxi Driver




About Nix

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Editor/Writer at BeyondHollywood.com. Likes: long walks on the beach and Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movies. Dislikes: 3D, shaky cam, and shaky cam in 3D. Got a site issue? Wanna submit Movie/TV news? Or to email me in regards to anything on the site, you can do so at nix (at) beyondhollywood.com.

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  • shelby

    If Only is the cutest movie i have seen. I love this movie and the songs!!

  • shelby

    If Only is the cutest movie i have seen. I love this movie and the songs!!

  • ponce

    The movie was beautifully crafted so as to give life to the meaning of love. “if only” shows the weaknesses of every human person, to love and to be loved. Ian was trying to correct what he misses as a boyfriend to Sam. A good point for a boyfriend. However, I was struck to death when Ian died of the accident. If I were the director I would like to end it where Ian and Sam raise a family together.

    The movie is very excellent………..

  • ponce

    The movie was beautifully crafted so as to give life to the meaning of love. “if only” shows the weaknesses of every human person, to love and to be loved. Ian was trying to correct what he misses as a boyfriend to Sam. A good point for a boyfriend. However, I was struck to death when Ian died of the accident. If I were the director I would like to end it where Ian and Sam raise a family together.

    The movie is very excellent………..

  • http://hayatbayat.blogspot.com/ 8/1

    Paul Nicholls is the most beautiful man i’ve ever seen

  • http://hayatbayat.blogspot.com 8/1

    Paul Nicholls is the most beautiful man i’ve ever seen

  • shreya

    nice movie but i didnt like the ending……i had kinda fight with my boyfriend just before i saw this movie. so while watching it i send him lots of love messages, coz maybe i felt that i shouldnt lose a moment to tell him how much i love him. i lost all my anger and i think he mite have been a li’l surprised to read them……. :)
    oh i wish that the entire movie was a dream for them and that they woke up together the next day realising their love for each other…!!

  • shreya

    nice movie but i didnt like the ending……i had kinda fight with my boyfriend just before i saw this movie. so while watching it i send him lots of love messages, coz maybe i felt that i shouldnt lose a moment to tell him how much i love him. i lost all my anger and i think he mite have been a li’l surprised to read them……. :)
    oh i wish that the entire movie was a dream for them and that they woke up together the next day realising their love for each other…!!

  • DAPHINE

    i rely love dis movie..nakakaiyak at nakakakilig…it’s so nyc…luv yah..kep up the goodwrk guys…

  • DAPHINE

    i rely love dis movie..nakakaiyak at nakakakilig…it’s so nyc…luv yah..kep up the goodwrk guys…