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April 12, 2024 / Searchlight Studios

Starring: Lucy Boynton, Justin H. Min, David Corenswet, Austin Crute

Directed By: Ned Benson

Harriet discovers certain songs can transport her back in time. While she relives the past through romantic memories with her former boyfriend, her time travelling interferes with a burgeoning new love interest in the present.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 3.5 out of 5

The Greatest Hits features a brilliant lead performance from Lucy Boynton that ensures that every emotional moment of the film hits its full potential and raises the story above its simple premise, that combined with a solid soundtrack, makes for one romance that will simultaneously make your heart ache and heal it.

Music is an integral part of everyone’s life. Everyone always associates memories or important events in their life with music, giving it an emotional universal quality. And that is what writer and director Ned Benson is exploring in his second feature film The Greatest Hits. While there are elements of science fiction at play with the time travelling caused by the film’s soundtrack, this is a romantic character piece about a young woman torn between the pain and love she feels for her deceased boyfriend, while exploring a new relationship that holds the promise of a second chance at love. Never for a second does Benson shy away from the pain and sorrow of his main character’s story, creating an emotionally stirring film that is not afraid to both warm audiences’ heart with the beautiful romances at play while at the same time attempting to shatter your heart in a film that does not necessarily cover new ground within the genre, but displays it from a unique perspective.

Moving on from a lost love is hard, especially when they died unexpectedly. But making it infinitely harder is the ability to travel back to any moment during that relationship when hearing the song that was playing at that time. That is the struggle that Harriet faces in The Greatest Hits that has caused her to become shut off from the world and the sounds in it, in fear of being transported back to the past to see her deceased boyfriend Max. At the same time, Harriet struggles to try and change the past to avoid his death, creating an endless spiral of grief, loss and heartbreak as she is unable to change the past and must relive some of the most beautiful moments of her life shrouded in heartbreak. Benson’s screenplay is raw, capturing the sadness of Harriet’s character and lets it permeate across the screen as Harriet’s character is defined by her despair. There is a hopefulness to the story as Harriet explores the potential of a new love with David, who is also dealing with his own grief, giving the film its lush romantic moments. It’s not new territory for the genre by any means, even with the science fiction element of Harriet’s time travelling abilities, which while at the centre of the film’s story do not become the focus of the story by any means. While you can guess the major decision for Harriet that the story is building towards with her time travelling abilities early on, the requisite tears during the film’s climax and the bittersweet finale of the story still hit hard, ensuring that it's easy to be swept up by this charming little film. Especially given its under ninety minute run time and the strong performances at play, it makes for a quick and heartfelt watch.

Lucy Boynton is a talented actress, and one who is no stranger to music related films after main roles in both Bohemian Rhapsody, Chevalier and Sing Street, but The Greatest Hits marks her first leading role in her film career. While her character is written very one faceted as she is defined by her grief and trauma, Boynton brings Harriet to life with a vibrancy and delicacy. Not only does Boynton bring a raw vulnerability to Harriet that allows you to feel her every bit of pain and suffering as she grapples with her heart ache over Max’s death, she brings a hopeful outlook to Harriet that promises that there is a way for her to move past this event in her life. Her chemistry with Corenswet is tender but not grand, capturing an ordinary relationship during the small everyday moments in life, largely thanks to her performance as Corenswet is given very minimal screen time and therefore any chance to develop Max beyond the snippets we see of him. It’s a luminous performance that carries the entire film, showcasing Boynton’s incredible talent at every turn.

Opposite Boynton is Justin H. Min as David, and he gives a great performance. There is a quieter subtlety to how David handles his grief, and Min captures that effortlessly, creating a character but you can’t help but fall in love. His romantic chemistry with Boynton is sweet, capturing that playfulness that exists in the beginning of a new relationship. At the same time there is a deep connection between them that begs the question of whether their characters are soul mates or not. And while she only has a few scenes, Retta is memorable as Harriet and David’s group grief counselor, flexing her dramatic muscles rather than her comedic talents she is known for, helping to create some of the more sentimental moments of the film.

Given the name The Greatest Hits, it comes as no surprise that the soundtrack plays a pivotal role in the film’s story. It’s the key to Harriet’s time travelling ability that transports her back to moments of her life with her deceased boyfriend Max, and the song selections chosen by Benson are great. There are some popular songs that most viewers will recognize, such as Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird”, but also a great selection of lesser known songs that fit the tone of the film perfectly. While lesser known, given that Boynton’s character is a music producer, these songs would be ones that her character would know and appreciate, and there is something special about each one. It ensures that just like Harriet reliving the greatest hits of her relationship with Max, the songs selected for the story are worthy of being the soundtrack for a film entitled The Greatest Hits.

The romance genre lends itself nicely to be comforting films, even though the storylines explored in them are often anything but comforting as they aim to tug on the viewers’ heart strings. And that is exactly what The Greatest Hits does with its emotional story that loads on the heartbreak experienced by its main character with the film’s exploration of grief and loss, while the promise of new love sets up a cathartic experience set to the tune of great music that is bound to be a hit amongst those looking to tap into their emotions. Led by a brilliantly fearless performance from Lucy Boynton as she opens her soul and bears it all to bond the audience to Harriet’s emotional journey, The Greatest Hits has all the romance, tears, moments of joy and music that the premise promises, making Ned Benson’s science fiction infused romance a beautiful viewing experience.

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