Films based on the premise of two people meeting by chance and falling in love has long been a staple of Hollywood. Britain produced films like David Lean’s exceptional Brief Encounter. Hollywood and its indie counterparts then produced Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. The romantic trope of two strangers sharing a moment is one that pops up every few years on the big screen. The new low budget film A Chance Encounter shares the theme. And it does it in a way that avoids cliches, allowing it to become something unique.
Hal (Paul Petersen) is travelling Italy looking for inspiration for his poetry. After arriving in the Sicilian town of Taormina he awkwardly meets folk singer Josie Day (Andrea von Kampen). She is looking for inspiration of her own to write another hit song that will get her back to the top of the charts. They hit it off quickly. And they decide to spend the remainder of Hal’s time in the country as a sort of writer’s retreat to help each other out with their craft. Along the way their innocent friendship opens them up to one another. This allows them to learn more about themselves and their hang-ups that are preventing them from moving along in their respective lives.
A Chance Encounter is a charming film, which oddly enough gets its polish from the inexperience of its two leads. Petersen is one of the writers of the script, and has very little experience in front of the camera. In a way it makes the story feel a lot more personal and honest, and Petersen is able to play the role the way he meant to play it. Like her character, von Kampen is a folk singer, which allows her to speak from a place of knowledge.
It’s very apparent from time to time that neither are comfortable on screen. But their awkwardness brings a realism that experience might have ruined. While A Chance Encounter does venture down the very cliched roads these types of movies usually explore. This includes an unneeded conflict between the two. It doesn’t stay on them for long and avoids the cheesiness many of these films drown in.
A Chance Encounter is the type of film a couple can enjoy together, without one of them being bored. It’s intelligently written and directed, and shows real growth for the characters. It has an underlying theme of “we all want more and don’t use what we’ve got”. And it is one that will stick with you long after the credits start to roll.