In the new Netflix film “A Tourist’s Guide to Love,” an American woman falls in love with a local tour guide on a trip to Vietnam.
Started streaming last Friday, “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” follows the story of the Los Angeles-based travel executive Amanda, played by Rachael Leigh Cook, who is assigned to go undercover in Vietnam as a tourist to find information on a local tourism agency.
The love story between Amanda and Sinh feels rushed as the result of the weak plot. Photo by Netflix
Amanda has just broken up with her boyfriend and during her trip to Vietnam, she meets Sinh, a local tour guide, played by Scott Ly.
Sinh suggests several changes to Amanda’s itinerary and the pair travel the country together. But just as they begin to fall in love, Amanda’s ex-boyfriend shows up and she’s forced to chose between the two men.
Amanda and Sinh’s story is that of a highly organized woman who over-plans everything letting go for the first time in her life and following the spirited Sinh on a spontaneous and adventurous journey. He shows her how to bargain at Ben Thanh Market and teachers her how to cross the daunting streets of Ho Chi Minh City with the simple motto, “Always move forward, don’t step back.”
Their exchanges help Amanda and Sinh better understand each other as well as themselves. Amanda starts to realize that she loves adventure more than she thought.
She writes in her diary: “Everything here is outside of my original plans.”
She also identifies with Sinh, a local-born man committed to staying in Vietnam and remaining connected to his roots. When Sinh first sees Amanda in the traditional Vietnamese ao dai tunic dress celebrating Lunar New Year, he realizes that he has fallen for her.
Unfortunately, the second half of the film falls bland as a result of a lack of a climax.
Le Thien (right) plays Sinh’s grandmother, who teaches Amanda how to clean incense bowls. Photo by Netflix
The relationship between Amanda and Sinh is supposed to be healing, however, its romantic aspect is more “spoken” than “shown.” Critics have called the movie’s plot weak and the quick pace at which Amanda and Sinh fall for each other feels rushed.
Commenter Nguyen Tram Anh stated that the two lead characters’ background stories were not fully explained in detail. “The characters didn’t have chemistry either. So it’s unconvincing when they develop feelings towards each other after only a few days traveling together.”
Users on several movie forums have also pointed out illogical details in the movie as well. During a scene featuring Ha Giang residents celebrating Lunar New Year, many characters are seen wearing short-sleeved T-shirts. When Amanda runs searching for Sinh in Hanoi at the end of the movie, continuity is also broken.
Eirene Tran Donohue, the film’s screenwriter, has admitted that there were plot holes. She explained that the production crew initially planned to shoot the film differently, however, they didn’t have enough time and footage for their original ideas. As a half-Vietnamese, Donohue was inspired by her and her family’s own experiences. Donohue’s Vietnamese mother first met her father in Ho Chi Minh City, while Donohue herself first met her current spouse in Hanoi.
On the other hand, “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” is visually beautiful, depicting vibrant sceneries throughout Vietnam. Traditional Vietnamese rituals are integrated into the movie as well.
The main characters explore the bustling rhythm of Ho Chi Minh City, hold candle-lit lanterns in a boat on the Hoai River in Hoi An Ancient Town, learn how to make stuffed sticky rice cakes in celebration of Lunar New Year, prepare traditional meals in Ha Giang, and enjoy a water puppet show in Hanoi.
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