FROM ZERO TO I LOVE YOU, directed by Doug Spearman, begins as a romantic comedy would – a love song playing in the background, rose petals on a bride’s dress, bright colours, a couple standing at the altar and swearing their love and support to each other forever. But the sound of an attendee banging the door as he leaves when the priest pronounces the happy couple husband and wife unbalances the idyllic first scene and leaves the audience wondering.
FROM ZERO TO I LOVE YOU is a tale of finding yourself and taking control of one’s life brought to life by a powerful mix and match of genres heightening the emotions. The film follows Jack (Scott Bailey) – a married man – who cheats on his wife with various men he meets living in a double reality – one where he is both straight and a homosexual man. The foundations of that reality are shaken when he meets Pete (Darryl Stephens), a commitment-phobic homosexual man. Pete wants more than Jack is brave enough to give him while Jack tries to run away from his fears and change.
In many ways, Jack is a tragic hero. He is stuck in an unhappy life that he feels he can not escape. He is a torn man: between conforming to the norm and his true desires; between his duty to his family and his own happiness. His dilemma recalls Ennis Del Mar’s in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. The embrace between Jack and a waiter, while his wife and friends are in the other room, is a reminder of Ennis and Jack Twist’s kiss with the same smooth camera movement going from the lovers to Ennis’s wife watching them from the window, or in this case, to an empty kitchen seconds before the lovers come out and guests come in. The audience does not know what will be found in the next room. The second of doubt before the relief connects us to the protagonist. Jack finds temporary solace by keeping the two parts of his life separate but Pete turns his life upside down. As a Shakespearean hero, he is faced with a dilemma overwhelming him so much that he can not act. But unlike Hamlet, Jack can not escape difficult decisions and unknowingly embarks on a life-changing journey to find himself.
One of the strengths of FROM ZERO TO I LOVE YOU is the portrayal of what began as a toxic, unhealthy relationship without condemning it. The relationship unfolds in front of the audience by shifting from Jack’s point of view to Pete’s without ever taking sides. Neither of them is right or wrong, which is a rarity when relationships are shown on the big screen. Just as the characters, Pete and Jack prove that relationship dynamics can change in tandem with people, no matter how well or badly it began.
Moreover, the tone of the romance is balanced between tragedy and comedy. The beginning of the romance between Jack and Pete taps into the tropes of romantic comedies. When Jack first locks eyes with Pete, the audience can feel the sparks fly. If the scene was not clear enough, the soundtrack makes it clear – two people are falling in love. Pete looks like the arrogant bad boy with his leather jacket and his tacky pick-up line but Jack is hooked – and so are we. Later, Jack gets ready for his dinner with Pete as anyone would for their first date putting on cologne, changing his hairstyle, making sure he is at its best. Such moments bring a light touch to a serious subject and pace the narrative.
FROM ZERO TO I LOVE YOU covers the complexity of relationships: of two people coming together from different walks of life trying to be together despite their fears, and life’s unexpected events, proposing a full picture of what love can be. It sometimes tries to cram too many themes, like the racial question with a fleeting lover wondering why Pete (who is black) only dated white men (such as Jack), or Pete himself wondering why he does not have black friends, and they struggle to find a place in the narrative. The film is sometimes muddled but so, too, are love and life. FROM ZERO TO I LOVE YOU captures accurately two men trying to find themselves and hoping to find each other at the end of the road.