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Vir Altyd
Genre Romance

Vir Altyd is the latest romance comedy drama from film-makers and stars, Donnalee Roberts and Ivan Botha. Their chemistry was established in Pad na jou Hart, also known as Road to your Heart, and the on-screen couple continue to light the way with their heartfelt and pure blend of romance drama and comedy fun.

Their latest romantic adventure sees them playing Nina and Hugo, former sweethearts who resume their complicated friendship on an island holiday in Mauritius.

The co-lead chemistry is terrific and the story starts with great aplomb, using flashbacks to layer their history and a creeping mystery to add tension. Roberts is gorgeous, living through her character and softening as Nina makes one breakthrough after another. Botha has a good-natured resolve, keeping his guard up but delivering an unwritten kindness.

They're supported by Elize Cawood, Wilson Dunster, Andre Jacobs, Illse Roos, Dirk Stoltz, André Stolz, Hélène Truter, Santhiran Moonsamy and Laré Birk. The accomplished ensemble bring their characters to life with sincere performances, offering multiple perspectives on love. Cawood is grace personified, Dunster is a delight, Roos and Stoltz enjoy some fun marital interplay, while Moonsamy and Birk keeps things bubbling over.

It's refreshing to watch a naive romance, imbued with heart and a sense of purity. While a strength, this innocence can undermine a film's dramatic integrity and skew the suspended reality. This works in a straight romantic comedy, but can be a bit problematic in a romance drama. Vir Altyd doesn't commit to being a bubbly romantic comedy or a windswept romance drama. Instead, it tries to balance the best of both worlds.

For the most part it gets by thanks to its likable co-leads, fun-in-the-sun spirit of adventure and ode to love. The potential for a Couples Retreat style comedy is immense and quite brilliant as a setup as they play with the central conceit of a couple pretending to be on honeymoon. While they toy with light comedy, they never fully commit, trying to keep an overarching sincerity to the heartfelt romance.

On their journey they encounter two other couples at various stages in their marriage. While this interplay is good as an opportunity for growth and learning, it seems to take away too much of the focus from the central relationship. This holiday escape feels like a different film when you contrast it with the book ends and if they'd given more focus to each of the couples like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the build up, it could have been.

As the film's screenwriters, you get the impression the co-leads tried to share the love by attaching more weight to supporting characters, when they should have given more attention to their own budding romance. As a result, the reconnect in Blue Lagoon paradise loses some power and the perspective some intimacy as the film zooms out of from the lead couple, leaving some frayed ends.

Director and second-time collaborator, Jaco Smit, keeps things upbeat and kinetic as the film moves from Paarl to Mauritius. From wedding dances to island celebrations, it's always picturesque, elegant and infused with romance as our would-be lovers revive dusty memories. While it tips the hat to its sponsors, Vir Altyd has a subtle and sensible air and maintains a good pace.

You can't help but fall in love with the spirit of Vir Altyd, which engenders love in its purest form across a spectrum of romantic situations. While the tone is unsure and the story is a bit scattershot, the sincere ensemble and heartfelt soundtrack maintain this flow, keeping the undercurrent of love fun, sincere and entertaining.

This Afrikaans romance comedy drama complements Pad na my Hart, delivering another compelling reason why Donnalee Roberts and Ivan Botha deserve their place in the Sun. Vir Altyd wins you over with sincere performances, entertains you with spirited island adventure, keeps you transfixed with inspiring romantic overtures, remains as upbeat as its soundtrack, while carrying itself with grace and dignity. Just like any relationship, it has its problems, but these imperfections are redeemed by the abundance of love.

The bottom line: Enjoyable


6.83/10 ( 6 Votes )
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