I can’t get mad at a film like A Tourist’s Guide To Love as it comes as-ordered for a travel rom-com.
Published on May 4, 2023
Rating 2.5 /5
Somewhere between a travel adventure and a routine romance, A Tourist’s Guide to Love plays like rom-com junk food. But not just any kind. It’s the type of junk food that likes to declare itself less sugary and maybe even healthy for you. While this picture certainly won’t rock the foundation of its cluttered subgenre, its passive plodding is almost adorable. After all, a rom-com adventure is only as enduring as its playful leads and gorgeous locations. This movie has enough of both to be a decent distraction.
The premise cooked up has the feel of a Lifetime movie that was granted a heavy travel budget. Amanda Riley (Rachael Leigh Cook) is a travel agent who feels bitter over a mild breakup with her boyfriend, John (Ben Feldman). After being needlessly excited by her boss (Missi Pyle), Amanda thought she would be proposed to and instead got the news that John was moving out of state. She figures that if he’s leaving the city, she might as well leave the country for a bit. She gets the perfect opportunity when her boss sends her on assignment to scope out a new tourist guide in Vietnam.
As rom-com logic goes, the man she meets on this voyage will be the man she’s been waiting for. That man is Sinh Thach (Scott Ly), a guide well versed in English and Vietnamese to be the perfect tour guide. Amanda follows him and a host of other mildly quirky guests on their travels around the country. The bulk of the film centers around either the chemistry bubbling between Amanda and Sinh or the exotic locations and the food within. The film is hoping you’ll drool over one or both, although it’s likely a few might favor the look of the muscular Sinh coming out of the beach waters in slow-motion.
This romantic comedy goes light on the comedy, becoming more worthy of smiles than laughs. There’s little exaggeration or misunderstanding among the characters, free of some ludicrous scene where Amanda falls into the water or eats local food incorrectly. The humor comes more from the warmth of the characters as well as their somewhat believable banter. For example, John will not end up with Amanda, but his obliviousness to how he places his career over a relationship is never portrayed in a cartoonish manner. John has his charms that it’s easy enough to see how Amanda initially ended up with this guy. Sinh's quirks and flaws make him more than just eye candy, although the camera serves up plenty of sugar.
The other guests present are mostly there for some gentle arcs of development and reflection. Two teenagers from a bond amid an influencer who vlogs the whole trip, only to be revealed as documenting the travel for his grandpa in a rest home. An elderly couple who hasn’t traveled much their entire lives spent the entire trip snuggling each other, finding comfort in how the wait was worth it. Sinh’s mother also comes into the picture but is more cautiously judgmental than the straining type who is hungry for grandchildren. And in between all of this is plenty of pretty locations, all of them given a title card so you can note where you’d like to venture if you ever find yourself taking a trip abroad.
I can’t get mad at a film like A Tourist’s Guide To Love as it comes as-ordered for a travel rom-com. It comes bundled with all the predictable trademarks, including the obligatory climax where Amanda rushes through traffic to realize the man she should be with. The film gets a bit cumbersome at times for being so delicate with this material that it’s almost frustrating how low-key most of the trip is, taking in more of the sights than breaking from the expected character conventions. But since many will probably seek out this film for some romantic moments and gorgeous sights, the film mostly delivers, albeit in a manner with little surprise.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.