How to Make Love Like An Englishmen – Stylish Take On a Familiar Story!

Englishman - Dinner

In How to Make Love Like an Englishman, Pierce Brosnan plays a Cambridge Romantics professor whose affair with one of his students takes him halfway around the world – where he finds something never expected: life.

Richard Haig (Brosnan) teaches the Romantic poets at Cambridge. He’s got real flair and a seemingly deep understanding of his subject – an understanding that leads him into an affair with Kate (Jessica Alba), one of his students.

One evening, he sets out to meet Kate for dinner and finds himself flirting with Olivia (Salma Hayek). Just as the two appear to be moving in for a kiss, Kate shows up. Olivia is her older sister – and she’s married to Alan, whom she married because she was pregnant). Over a somewhat uncomfortable dinner, Kate reveals that she’s pregnant – giving Richard a terrible jolt.

The two marry and move to Los Angeles where Jake enters the scene. Perhaps unexpectedly, Richard is a marvelous dad – though we soon learn it’s because his dad, Gordon (Malcolm McDowell), was a horrid example and he’s doing the opposite (which is to say, showing Jake he loves him).

Cut to several years later and Kate has fallen in love with Brian (Ben McKenzie), someone she met at work. By the time she tells Richard, Olivia has arrived on the scene after catching Alan (Robert Mailhouse) in bed with her gynecologist!

Next thing you know, Richard’s daddy skills have impressed Olivia and the two share a night together while Jake (Duncan Joiner) is on a sleepover and things get complicated – seems that Richard has been ignoring the efforts of his lawyer, Ernesto (Lombardo Boyar), to fit an interview with immigration into his schedule.

Englishman - At Work

Stuff happens; Richard makes a few mistakes and BOOM! He’s back in England and one is talking to anyone.

This is writer Matthew Newman’s first feature and he takes a very familiar set of romantic drama tropes and gives them a dash of wit and a bit of intelligence – narrowly avoided the worst of the possible clichés (though he does overuse the British cussword bollocks). He even allows characters to develop affections that you would never expect.

Tom Vaughn (Extraordinary Measures, The Royals) has done both drama and comedy well, so he really understands how to make the commonplace feel uncommon. He allows the characters to grow naturally – never forcing the pace, but never letting things drag, either.

Brosnan, Alba, Hayek, McKenzie and all have terrific chemistry with each other and Joiner gives a delightfully real performance that makes the adults (or, considering some of their behaviors at times, alleged adults) feel real to us as well.

Brosnan uses his natural affability to underplay Richard when not teaching – until he has a reason to be a bit nuts. Alba has always had great comic timing, but she’s become a better actor on the dramatic side and her pain and confusion (when called for) are just right.

McKenzie does a great job making the rather stolid Brian not feel like a cardboard cut-out, while we get to see him become a person that Jake could like. Hayek is controlled fire throughout – she has a gift for projecting heat and fierceness without seeming to do anything at all – her changing attitude vis a vis Richard gives her a chance to some nicely nuanced comic bits as well.

There are plenty of romantic comedies, dramas and dramedies out there that feel like paint-by-numbers projects but, somehow, this collection of creative people infuses How to Make Love Like an Englishman with enough life and charm to be worth seeing.

Final Grade: B