“Press Play” offers a refreshing approach to the romance genre.

The Fault in Our Stars, The Notebook, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, Paper Towns — all of those movies have two things in common: they’re originally books written by either John Green or Nicholas Sparks and they’re the cheesy romance teen-aimed movies that have come out for the past 20 years that usually just hit the sweet spot for their target audience. Then there are movies like Everything, Everything; Last Christmas; Every Day; The Spectacular Now; and so forth which redefine what the teen romance genre can be about. It doesn’t need to be this linear romance with a Romeo-and-Juliet-style conflict about beating the odds or making every last minute count; sometimes the memories are just enough to last you a lifetime. That is what Press Play wants to do for its audience. It wants to try and break free of the mold that has been integrated into our minds for what this type of movie should be. Does it completely reinvent the wheel? Absolutely not, but it certainly is a brand spanking new tire with clean tread.


L-R: Clara Rugaard as Laura and Lewis Pullman as Harrison in the romance film, PRESS PLAY, The Avenue release. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

We follow Laura (Clara Rugaard) who is convinced by her best friend, Chloe (Lyrica Okano) to meet her step-brother Harrison (Lewis Pullman). After giving into her friend, Laura agrees to enter the record shop owned by Cooper (Danny Glover) where Harrison works, and the two of them hit it off as Laura clearly can tell Harrison is into her and tells him if he wants her number, and thereby a date, he has to accompany her to the Japanese Breakfast concert, a band he previously attested to detesting. While the two of them continue to hit it off, their romance grows fast and furiously until one day when Harrison falls victim to an unfortunate accident. Plagued with grief, Laura listens to a mixtape that they created for themselves and it transports her back in time and she makes it her mission to prevent the tragedy from ever happening.


L-R: Lyrica Okano as Chloe and Clara Rugaard as Laura in the romance film, PRESS PLAY, The Avenue release. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

What works with Press Play from a story perspective is that it builds on the typical romance storyline that audiences have seen time and time again but changes it and brings forth a new dynamic. Yes, we’ve seen the significant other die and the remaining alive character try to process the grief. Yes, we’ve seen the romance that tries to get saved from some sort of time travel element. But the way that director and co-writer Greg Bjorkman and co-writer James Bachelor convey the story of Laura and Harrison is refreshing and it grabs the attention of the viewers and doesn’t just feel like de-ja-vu.


L-R: Clara Rugaard as Laura and Lyrica Okano as Chloe in the romance film, PRESS PLAY, The Avenue release. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

Moreover though, a movie that hinders on romance, chemistry, and passion can only go so far if the leads do not share that chemistry. The chemistry shared between Clara Rugaard and Lewis Pullman is clear and evident throughout the entirety of the movie. There is a clear undeniable attraction and desire to be with one another in the film, making the audience connect to these characters. It is also refreshing that this doesn’t get displayed through an over-gratuitous sexual innuendo scene, but as a budding romance that focuses on the emotional connection and genuine feeling of love that these two actors have for each other.


Danny Glover as Cooper in the romance film, PRESS PLAY, The Avenue release. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

Without giving away too much information regarding the story and the ending of the movie, there are quite a few twists and a climax that truly is a surprising turn. All of this, and the strong performances from Danny Glover and Lyrica Okano, brings together Press Play to be an incredibly heart-warming and sweet love story that tries its best to break free of the standard cookie-cutter formula that has been done.

In theaters and digital Friday June 24th, 2022.

For more information, head to the official Press Play website.

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.


Categories: In Theaters, Reviews, streaming

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