Zoe is surprised that her old friend is not hoping for what his culture calls a “love marriage.” She certainly has no interest in the handsome, kind, funny young veterinarian her mother (Emma Thompson, having a blast) wants her to marry. Yet, Zoe has her own conflicts around love, with a history of relationships so short-lived none of them qualifies as likely to stick around long enough to watch an entire TV series together. When she tells fairy tales to her nieces, she switches the ending. In her version, Cinderella breaks glass ceilings instead of losing a glass slipper. And the princess would rather have a cool talking frog than a boring old prince.
Zoe is an accomplished documentary filmmaker (although it’s hard to imagine her making a professional film with one small camera, doing all of her own filming, sound, and editing). Producers have no interest in her proposals for films about tragic topics. She impulsively suggests a documentary about her friend’s progress in finding a bride. The producers perk up and suggest titles like “When Harry Was Forced to Meet Sally” or “My Big Fat Arranged Marriage.” Zoe has a better idea: “Love Contractually.” Kaz reluctantly agrees, and Zoe starts following him with her camera to a meeting with the jovial matchmaker to an awkward mixer to a “love at first Skype” meeting with Maymouna (Sajal Ali), a bride prospect in Lahore, a shy law student, and then to their wedding.
The movie comes from Working Title Films, the studio behind classic rom-coms like “Love Actually,” “Notting Hill,” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and it acknowledges, pays tribute to, and steals a bit from those and some Hollywood favorites as well. Zoe tells the producers she plans to interview couples for context and commentary like the ones in “When Harry Met Sally.” As in that film, those moments are some of the most memorable. This one has familiar beats but appealing performers, better dialogue, and more depth of character than many more formulaic movie romances.