May 28, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Brian Baugh
Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland and briefly in New York City, the romantic drama “Finding You” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one African American) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: An aspiring professional violinist and an action movie star, who are both American, meet on an airplane flying to Ireland, and she ends up becoming his love interest and temporary assistant while he films a movie in Ireland and has an on-again, off-again relationship with a co-star.
Culture Audience: “Finding You” will appeal mainly to people who like watching predictable and banal romantic dramas with absolutely nothing imaginatively creative about the story.
“Finding You” was written and directed by Brian Baugh, but the entire movie looks like it came from the mind of a naïve teenager who’s read too many hack romance novels. The movie is based on Jenny B. Jones’ faith-based young adult 2011 novel “There’ll You Find Me,” which was much more about coping with grief than being a sudsy and trite romance. There isn’t one single minute of “Finding You” that isn’t predictable and/or corny.
And that’s okay for a romantic movie, if the characters and storyline are charming enough and the movie has great dialogue, engaging acting and intriguing situations. However, in “Finding You,” the would-be couple basically look and talk like Ken and Barbie dolls, while they and the other characters in the story try and act like this “fairtayle romance” wasn’t the result of the guy cheating on his girlfriend with the story’s “heroine.”
This infidelity is glossed over in a very hypocritical way in this preachy and maudlin story, which tries to make the female protagonist look like a noble do-gooder, even though she’s an active and knowing participant in this infidelity. Meanwhile, she meddles in other people’s lives in the most condescending manner, as if she’s a paragon of virtue and morality. But because this story is based on the unrealistic fantasy that things always work out for pretty protagonists in the end, it all adds up to predictable junk.
“Finding You” begins with protagonist Finley Sinclair (played by Rose Reid), who lives in New York City, feeling defeated because she failed in her audition to get into an elite music conservatory. Finley plays classical violin and she’s supposed to be about 18 or 19 years old, but all the actors in “Finding You” who are supposed to be in that age group look like they’re way past their teen years. Finley is feeling sad over being rejected by the school, but she plans to audition again in three months for the school’s next semester.
To help Finley get over her unhappiness, Finley’s mother Jennifer Sinclair (played by Judith Hoag) suggests that Finley do what Finley’s brother Alex did years ago: Spend a semester studying in Ireland. And just like that, Finley is on a plane to Ireland, where she will be staying in a small town that’s not named in the film. The student application process sure works fast in this movie for Finley to get accepted into the foreign exchange student program so quickly.
On the plane, something occurs that happens only in a movie: A flight attendant chooses Finley, out of all the people on the plane, to get a free upgrade to the first-class section, just because there’s an empty seat, and the flight attendant thought that Finley might like to sit there. Of course, Finley says yes. And, of course, some viewers will roll their eyes at this “too good to be true” moment.
Finley dozes off in this first-class seat. And when she wakes up, she’s startled when she notices that her head had been accidentally resting on the shoulder of a good-looking stranger sitting next to her who wasn’t there when she first sat down. You know where this is going to go, of course. The man sitting next to her is about her age. And he happens to be a movie star. And this is the scene where there might as well be a big sign flashing, “Meet Cute Moment Alert!”
This movie star is an American named Beckett Rush (played by Jedidiah Goodacre), and he’s slightly amused by Finley being embarrassed at waking up with her head on his shoulder. She makes a sincere apology, but Beckett thinks that she’s one of his star-struck fans who deliberately planned to sit next to him on this plane. Beckett tells Finley that he doesn’t want to call attention to himself, so he tells her to wait until the plane lands before he can give her an autograph or photo.
Finley is mildly insulted by his arrogance, because she doesn’t really know or care about who Beckett is and why he’s famous. Beckett smirks and thinks that she’s lying. He can’t believe that she doesn’t know who he is. He mentions that he’s going to Ireland to film a movie, while Finley says she’s going to Ireland as a visiting student. The cliché banter continues. And then Beckett says one of the movie’s many cringeworthy lines: “You know, you look really beautiful when you admit that you’re wrong.”
On the plane, Finley just happens to be reading a celebrity gossip magazine and is flipping through it when she sees a photo spread of Beckett partying in a hotel suite, in various states of undress. It looks like the type of photos that someone at the party sold to the magazine. Finley looks at the photo spread with some disapproval. Beckett frowns and says, “You know, I didn’t like that article either.”
The plane lands in Ireland. Finley and Beckett go their separate ways—but not really, because you know they’re going to see each other again in the most sickeningly cute coincidence possible. Before she leaves for the host family home where she’ll be staying, Finley notices a gaggle of gushing young female fans surrounding Beckett at the airport, just in case it wasn’t immediately clear to everyone that Beckett is a teen idol.
The Irish family who’s hosting Finley is the same family who hosted her brother Alex when he studied in Ireland for a semester, about six or seven years earlier. The family has recently turned their home into a bed-and-breakfast lodging, and they’re desperate to get good reviews. The host family consists of married couple Sean Callaghan (played by Ciaran McMahon) and Nora Callaghan (played by Fiona Bell) and their teenage daughter Emma Callaghan (played by Saoirse-Monica Jackson), who is (to no one’s surprise) a huge fan of Beckett Rush.
How much does Emma adore Beckett? She has photos and posters of him plastered all over her bedroom walls. And only photos and posters of Beckett. She doesn’t just adore him. She’s obsessed. You can imagine how Emma (who’s about 15 or 16) reacts when she finds out who’s staying in her parents’ bed-and-breakfast home.
Finley finds out when Sean and Nora have a messy mishap in the kitchen while they’re making breakfast for their very special guest. Sean and Nora don’t want their guest to see them with their stained and disheveled clothes, and they don’t want to delay serving him by changing off into clean clothes. And so, they ask Finley to serve this “mystery guest” his breakfast.
The guest is Beckett, of course. And when Finley and Beckett see each other again, they have that “What are you doing here?” moment before Beckett assumes that Finley stalked him there. She denies it and asks Beckett what he’s doing at a modest bed-and-breakfast place instead of staying at a fancy hotel. Beckett says it’s because he’s trying to avoid fans and paparazzi, and no one would suspect him of staying at this bed-and-breakfast place.
Emma practically faints when she sees Beckett. Sean and Nora tell Emma and Finley to keep it a secret that Beckett is staying there. Sean and Nora want Beckett to give good word-of-mouth reviews to the bed-and-breakfast, and they think that will only happen if they protect Beckett’s privacy. But, of course, Emma can’t keep it a secret, and she tells a few of her friends at her high school.
Finley tries to act like she’s not impressed by Beckett, and she says she doesn’t trust Beckett because she thinks he’s a playboy. But everyone watching this movie knows that she will eventually fall for Beckett. For quite a while, Beckett can’t seem to remember Finley’s name and keeps calling her other names that start with the letter “f,” especially Frankie. When someone you’re attracted to can’t remember your name, that’s supposed to be charming? Only in a dumb movie like this one.
Finley is curious enough about Beckett to look him up on the Internet. And it’s there that she sees that Beckett has an American actress girlfriend named Taylor Risdale (played by Katherine McNamara), whom he’s known since they were both child actors. Beckett and Taylor are described as a hot “it couple” by the media, and there’s a lot of news coverage about many aspects of their relationship.
Beckett’s main claim to fame is starring in a movie series called “Dawn of the Dragon,” which is depicted in “Finding You” as a very cheesy movie version of “Game of Thrones.” He’s in Ireland to film one of the movies in the “Dawn of the Dragon” series. Taylor is Beckett’s co-star/love interest in this “Dawn of the Dragon” movie, so she’s in Ireland too. Of course she is.
One stereotype that “Finding You” thankfully doesn’t have is portraying Taylor as completely jealous and vindictive. It would be easy to do when the love triangle part of the story starts to happen. Instead, Taylor is nice to Finley, even when it becomes clear that Beckett is attracted to Finley and has been hanging out with Finley more than is appropriate when he already has a girlfriend who’s nearby.
The seduction starts with Beckett showing up one night at Finley’s room to ask her if she could help him rehearse his script lines. At first she says no, but then she changes her mind. The first time Beckett reads lines with her is when Finley feels a real attraction to him. They almost kiss and then turn their heads away in embarrassment, as you do in a formulaic romantic movie like this one.
Beckett convinces Finley that he needs her to keep helping him with his lines, so he “hires” her as his assistant, even though he never pays her. At one point, Beckett starts to describe Finley as his “acting coach,” which is even more ludicrous. It’s all just an excuse for Beckett and Finley to spend more time together. Everyone knows it but Taylor, who is predictably the last to figure out that Beckett and Finley are falling for each other.
Beckett’s domineering manager also happens to be his father. Montgomery Rush (played by Tom Everett Scott) is a stereotypical, money-hungry “stage dad,” who’s a failed actor and is using his son Beckett to live vicariously through him. Montgomery (who is not married and there’s no mention of Beckett’s mother) has been pressuring Beckett to sign a five-movie, seven-year deal for “Dawn of the Dragon” spinoffs.
However, Beckett is reluctant to sign this lucrative deal because he wants to be known for more than just the “Dawn of the Dragon” movies. Montgomery doesn’t take Finley too seriously because he thinks she’s just another one of Beckett’s flings. Montgomery is essentially the main antagonist in “Finding You.”
Taylor becomes the story’s other antagonist when she thinks Beckett should sign the movie deal too. It turns out that Montgomery has been behind the leaks to the media about Beckett and Taylor’s relationship, so that Beckett’s name is kept in the news. Taylor knows that Montgomery has been manipulating the press in this way, and she doesn’t mind at all. In fact, she encourages it. On paper, Taylor and Beckett seem like a “perfect” couple, but Taylor is depicted as too shallow for Beckett, and he’s starting to see how incompatible they are.
Beckett only starts to see how much of a dead-end relationship he’s in after he meets Finley, who’s not dazzled by his celebrity status and encourages Beckett to be his own man, not the person Beckett’s father wants him to be. Viewers are supposed to believe that because of Finley, Beckett starts to feel like he wants to experience more “normal” things, because he’s been an actor since he was 7 years old. Beckett has a high school degree, but he never went to a graduation ceremony and he never went to a prom because he was too busy working. And he thinks he might want to put his actor career on hold to go to college.
As Finley and Beckett start to spend more time together, she opens up to him about her goal of becoming a professional violinist and about a tragedy in her past, because the heroine in a story like this always has to have a tragedy to make her look more sympathetic. Finley’s tragedy is that her brother Alex died shortly after he got back to America from Ireland. One of the reasons why she’s in Ireland is to pay tribute to him and try to heal from her grief over his death.
Unbeknownst to Finley and her family, Alex left behind a sketch book of drawings and poems at the Callaghan home. Finley finds out when Nora gives the book to Finley shortly after Finley arrives in Ireland. Nora explains that she didn’t feel right about mailing this book to Finley’s family because Nora feared it might get lost in the mail or possibly sent to the wrong address. And so, Nora kept the book for all of these years.
In the sketch book, Finley sees that Alex drew a very unusual stone crucifix that looks partially broken at the top. It looks like the crucifix is part of a gravestone in a graveyard. And so, Finley becomes determined to find this crucifix, which she assumes is somewhere in Ireland. She’s sure that when she finds this crucifix, there will be a special meaning that Alex would want her to get out of this discovery. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
Emma’s high school has a snooty mean girl named Keeva (played by Anabel Sweeney), who was cast as an extra in Beckett’s movie. Keeva’s only purpose in “Finding You” is to brag about being in Beckett’s movie, act like a catty snob about it to Emma and other people, and then get her comeuppance when Beckett starts paying attention to Finley. Emma acts like an overeager puppy dog around Finley, to the point where she calls Finley her “sister.” And therefore, Emma feels like a Beckett Rush “insider” when Finley inevitably gets closer to Beckett and confides in Emma about her dates with Beckett.
There’s also a subplot of Finley being assigned to visit a senior citizen at a nursing home, as part of her school’s “Adopt a Senior” program. And, of course, she’s assigned to a grouchy and bitter loner, whose name is Cathleen Sweeney (played by Vanessa Redgrave), who doesn’t want to have any visitors. Cathleen is very rude to Finley in their first meeting and she orders Finley to leave.
Finley tries to get assigned to someone else, but the nursing home supervisor who’s in charge of the “Adopt a Senior” program tells Finley that Finley can’t change her assigned senior. Finley can’t quit the program either, because an essay on her “Adopt a Senior” experience is required for her to pass whatever student class has this “Adopt a Senior” program. And so, in a very contrived situation, Finley and Cathleen have to spend time together, even though they don’t like each other very much in the beginning.
What does Finley do to pass the time with Cathleen? She reads books to her. And the reading list is laughable because it’s so odd. First, Finley reads Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice.” And then she reads Stephenie Meyer’s young adult vampire novel “Twilight.” And that rate, Finley might as well start reading this crabby old lady some “Fifty Shades of Grey” too. Finley doesn’t, but you get the idea of how weird and random it is that “Finding You” has Finley reading “Twilight” to a senior citizen.
And because “Finding You” has to fill up the story with more treacly melodrama, Finley finds out that Cathleen (who is widowed with no children) has been a longtime outcast in the town. It’s because years ago, when she was a young woman, Cathleen married the wealthy man who was engaged to Cathleen’s sister Fiona Doyle. Cathleen and her sister Fiona have remained estranged ever since. Cathleen eventually left her husband, and he was so heartbroken that he drank himself to death, as the story goes in the town. The townspeople have blamed Cathleen for this man’s death and consider her to be heartless and evil.
Finley finds out this story from Nora, after Finley looks in Cathleen’s desk drawer and sees a stack of unopened “return to sender” mail that Cathleen sent to Fiona, who is Cathleen’s only living relative. Finley asks Nora who Fiona Doyle is and why Fiona is returning Cathleen’s mail unopened. Nora is also one of the townspeople who has a negative opinion of Cathleen.
Because Finley is very nosy, she decides she’s going to track down Fiona and try to “fix” this family rift. And there’s a “race against time” aspect to this intrusiveness because of a reason that’s very easy to predict for an old person in a nursing home. It’s also easy to predict that there’s more to the Cathleen/Fiona story than the townspeople’s gossip.
Finley should be the last person to judge other people’s love triangles, because she’s gotten herself involved in a messy love triangle too, but this movie tries to embellish it in the most hypocritical ways. While Finley acts so self-righteous to other people about their lives, she’s sneaking around and dating Beckett (and yes, they eventually kiss) while Taylor is still Beckett’s girlfriend. Beckett is cheating on Taylor with Finley, and neither Beckett nor Finley seems to feel too guilty about it.
But being a knowing participant in infidelity doesn’t fit the “innocent ingenue” narrative for Finley that this movie tries to push on the audience, so this cheating scenario is depicted as Beckett finding true love with Finley, while he’s in an “arranged” relationship with Taylor. Never mind that he’s being dishonest with Taylor. Meanwhile, Emma and Finley breathlessly talk like giddly schoolgirls about Finley’s dates with Beckett. It all just leads to the over-used “redemption of the bad boy” narrative that so many of these stale romance movies have, with Finley being the one to “save” Beckett from his arrogant ways.
The movie shows Finley and Beckett spending time at a pub callled Taffee’s Castle. It’s here where a town drunk named Seamus (played by Patrick Bergin) hangs out, and he sleeps on a bench outdoors during the day. In a movie filled with stereotypes, it should come as no surprise that “Finding You” has the most predictable stereotype for a movie that takes place in Ireland: an alcoholic character. Fortunately, Seamus is the “jolly drunk” type.
And you can do a countdown to the expected scene of Seamus playing the fiddle with a band at the pub, Beckett whispering something to Seamus on stage, and then Seamus announcing to the pub that they have a special guest player in the audience, as Seamus demands that Finley come up on stage to play the fiddle with him and the band. Finley then shakes her head and protests until she reluctantly gets up on stage. She says she plays the violin, not the fiddle, as Seamus hands her a fiddle and tells her that a fiddle is practically the same as a violin.
And it’s here that viewers can predict that Seamus is in the movie so he can teach Finley how to play a musical instrument with her heart more than with her head. Yes, there are more scenes later of Finley and Seamus playing the fiddle together. It’s all so schmaltzy and unimaginative.
There are also a few scenes where Beckett spends time with Finley when she’s visiting with Cathleen. In one scene, Beckett is bizarrely dressed up as someone’s version of a 1960s hippie who looks like a reject from the “Woodstock” movie. It’s supposed to be Beckett’s way of charming Cathleen, who’s from the Woodstock Generation.
Beckett says some old hippie jargon to get Cathleen to like him. It’s very pandering and insulting to people’s intelligence. But in a stupid movie like this one, this manipulation works with Cathleen, who approves of Beckett and tells Finley that he’s a good man and a “keeper.” Finley doesn’t tell Cathleen that Beckett is cheating on his girlfriend Taylor by dating Finley.
Meanwhile, in a ridiculous movie like “Finding You,” while Finley is traipsing around Ireland with Beckett, spending time being his “acting coach”/assistant on and off the movie set, playing the fiddle with Seamus, searching for that mystery crucifix, reading books to Cathleen, and trying to force Cathleen’s estranged sister Fiona (played by Helen Roche) to reunite with Cathleen, at no time is Finley actually seen in any classes or doing any studying. It makes you wonder why the filmmakers made Finley an American student who’s supposed to be enrolled in an Irish school, when she just really acts like an American on holiday in Ireland.
The acting in this movie is unremarkable, even with the great Vanessa Redgrave in the cast. She plays a very cranky character in the movie, so she might not have had to do much acting, since most Oscar-winning actors would be cranky too if they ended up in this type of schlocky movie. As for the “fairytale” couple in this story, Goodacre is much more believable and expressive in his role as Beckett than Reid is as Finley, who is as bland as bland can be.
However, there’s only so much actors can do when the dialogue ranges from basic to silly. The scenery in Ireland looks nice in the movie though. But that’s not enough to watch “Finding You,” when there are plenty of better romantic dramas that are set in Ireland. (Some examples: 2007’s “Once,” 2010’s “Ondine” and, for a New York City-Ireland connection, 2015’s “Brooklyn.”) Ultimately, “Finding You” sticks to an over-used formula to such a lazy degree that it makes the movie irrelevant and forgettable.
Roadside Attractions released “Finding You” in U.S. cinemas on May 14, 2021.