Love Island wants to entertain in the best way it knows how. It’s at times clumsy and hackneyed, with a very short attention span, but it is sweet, goofy and sensuous, and it is hard to dislike it. Reader, I was entertained. It consists of standard scenes making up a flimsy summer comedy about a love triangle in a holiday resort under the Croatian sun called… well, Love Island. It’s a movie like filo pastry: you like it, sometimes you crave it, but it’s not anybody’s favorite food. There’s Liliane (Ariane Labed), beautiful and pregnant, and her husband Grebo (Ermin Bravo), a lovable dork. Liliane and Grebo seem to look forward to being parents. But there is Flora (Ada Condeescu), who works at the resort as a diving instructor and animator, and she and Liliane were a couple once.
Flora wants to seduce Liliane, and eventually, Liliane lets herself be seduced; Grebo zeroes in on Flora, and she lets him. The story is more or less predictable, and the characters don’t exist outside of what they want – they all want to make love, just not with each other. This is not a sex comedy – Flora still loves Liliane, Grebo genuinely loves Liliane, but also lusts after Flora, and Liliane loves Grebo, too, but still has strong feelings for Flora, especially when Flora is standing on the karaoke stage and singing just for her. If only Flora could learn to love Grebo, then they could have incredible threesomes while waiting for the baby to be born. Oops, just gave away the ending. Sorry. Flora is not a femme fatale, but wants to get Liliane back, and if that involves seducing Grebo, so be it.
All the three leads are good-looking and attractive. Comedies stand or fall with the charisma of its protagonists. Flora is a gorgeous redhead, but if she had straight, black hair, you would get something like the Piper-Alex-Larry love triangle from Orange is the New Black. There is a dreamlike flashback to Liliane and Flora as a double act of mermaids in a pool for the divers to look at. Grebo turns into something of a celebrity because he is singing Winds of Change on karaoke night. There is an unexplained hockey team, training in full gear minus the skates in the sweltering heat. There is Franco Nero quoting Pasolini. There are guests who think that Winds of Change is by Bob Dylan. There is that obligatory scene where Grebo leaves the resort, hurt that his wife might choose a woman over him, but since that woman is Flora, he sort of gets the point and is quick to return. And by Jove, there is a bathroom scene where Grebo wants to get rid of unwanted body hair by using those wax strips. He hides that from his wife, and she does exactly the same, and both do it for Flora. Love Island takes standard comedy scenes and makes them look new.
Love Island is also partly a fairy tale. A real pregnant woman could not dance the way Liliane does. And the childbirth scene reminded me of the exuberant style of Moulin Rouge. The movie has fun with itself, but isn’t all over the place with its comedy. Towards the end, Grebo kisses another man. Why? Because he can, and because he wants to, and because most nude scenes don’t involve him. The story is about Liliane and Flora, but doesn’t make a point of it. Love Island might just pass the Bechdel test without even trying.