‘A Chance Encounter’ Review: Bland Days In Taormina

Andrea von Kampen, a singer-songwriter who has a way with the acoustic guitar, is the most engaging part of this tentative romantic drama.

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By Glenn Kenny

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Can a motion picture be shockingly inoffensive? The question sauntered into my mind about a third of the way through “A Chance Encounter.” (A bad sign, as the movie is only about 90 minutes.)

The movie’s components are not unfamiliar. A young man, Hal (Paul T.O. Petersen, who also wrote the script with the film’s director Alexander Jeffery), still not close to being settled in life, travels to the Sicilian seaside town of Taormina to honor his mother’s memory (his inheritance is footing the bill) and to find inspiration for his poetry.

On a terrace with a killer view, he meets Josie, an American singer with a recent hit single, strumming and singing away.

Josie is played by the real-life singer Andrea von Kampen, who’s the most engaging part of the picture. She’s a fine singer and, at times, her guitar work is reminiscent of the cult hero Nick Drake. But that’s the far end of whatever idiosyncrasy this movie has. After Hal and Josie’s meet-cute, they see sights blandly, philosophize blandly, blandly tiptoe around the notion of romance, and criticize each other — yes, blandly, but with an occasional touch of “salty” language. Josie is frustrated with Hal because she considers him a rare talent and thinks he won’t properly commit to the poetic vocation.

“And perhaps the sun blows kisses to the moon as it departs/they work two separate shifts with one beating heart” is a representative couplet from Hal’s verse. As too often happens in movies that depict literary aspirants, the writing raises the dreaded question, “Wait, is this actually supposed to be good?” One supposes it is supposed to be. And one just has to sit with that, as “A Chance Encounter” ambles to its inevitable conclusion.

A Chance Encounter
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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