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Genre Romance

Mooirivier is an Afrikaans romantic comedy drama inspired by films like Love, Actually and Valentine's Day. While set in the build-up to an Easter festival in Potchefstroom, writer-director Rene van Rooyen's first feature film has been released just in time for Valentine's Day. While the format is borrowed, Mooirivier's South African flavour, impressive local soundtrack and eager Afrikaans "romcom" market are sure to make this refresh a hit.

We're introduced to several budding romances as a pastor turned property agent tries to patch up his love life, a young student gets over a break up with the help of her buddy and a single mom "Cinderella" has a chance encounter with a pop star prince. To keep things from getting too sentimental van Rooyen has included some comic relief characters and a mature love story involving a couple going through a trial separation.

Each scenario could have ostensibly been the core of its own romance drama, but stay fresh thanks to the episodic channel-flipping between characters, contained by the town, the genre and their eventual gathering at the Easter festival. We've seen the definitive British version of the format by Richard Curtis in Love, Actually and Garry Marshall's American schmaltz that is Valentine's Day, so it was only a matter of time before it got the South African treatment. The format actually makes a lot more sense for South African audiences when you consider the popularity of television soap opera programming and the brimming plethora of local acting talent.

Mooirivier's cast includes the naturally offbeat Tim Theron (Klein Karoo), who plays an unassuming, bumbling and likable former pastor opposite the intrinsic Anel Alexander (Semi-soet) as a sweet, charming and go-getting career woman. Milan Murray echoes a willful Jodie Foster as a resolute wife on the verge of divorce opposite a sincere and determined performance from Hykie Berg, as a husband desperately trying to redeem himself.

Heinz Winckler delivers a pleasantly surprising performance as a version of himself, while Nadia Beukes unearths bittersweet anti-Cinderella tones as part of the Notting Hill dynamic. Then, Leandie du Randt and Danie Putter round off the ensemble in the most light-hearted of the stories as one college buddy tries to help another get over her break up like a guy.

Being as character-driven as it is, Mooirivier's burgeoning cast also includes familiar faces like the eclectic Bouwer Bosch, zany Anne Hirsch, calm-like-a-bomb Greg Kriek as well as horrible bosses, Diaan Lawrenson and Sandi Schultz.

Mooirivier positions itself as a satire on love with its denouncement of modern fairy tales in its animated opening sequence. While the light-hearted slapstick comedy is a bit hit-and-miss, the film's earnest performances add enough heft to the heartwarming romance drama to smooth over its tonal inconsistencies. The twists on the predictable make it more entertaining and less schmaltzy, which help cloud its status as a derivative.

Mooirivier may pale in comparison with Love, Actually but is a better reinvention than Valentine's Day. All in all, Mooirivier makes for a light, entertaining and heartwarming movie experience if you allow yourself to indulge in its sweet nothings and chocolate box assortment of romantic scenarios.

The bottom line: Enjoyable

5.67/10 ( 3 Votes )
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