When Seattle librarian Julia Reynolds convinces her dull jigsaw puzzle obsessed husband to take a vacation in Malta, she conveniently leaves out the part about her prearranged meeting with a French lover from 25 years ago. After both of them actually show up for the island rendezvous she has to choose between a husband who takes her for granted and a man who may be her soul mate.

For the first 10 minutes of the film I felt like I had been forced to watch a sappy, syrupy sweet, clumsy cutesy, caricature-driven Hollywood romantic comedy wannabe shot entirely in Malta probably because of a film funding tax break program that allowed the producers to spend a month or two working in an amazingly enchanting locale.

This cynical sentiment changed, however, as soon as Turkish-French actor Tchéky Karyo entered the film and grounded it with a down-to-earth nonchalance in a way that only an experienced Turkish-French actor can. The annoyingly exaggerated neurotic behavior of the main character, played by English actress Juliet Stevenson, was then quickly absorbed into the chemistry between the two.

Although much of the narrative feels over-acted and under-directed, the core sentiment of the film rings true when the main character comments, “I never became James Joyce, and he never became Che Guevara.” At the end of the journey, the film provides a satisfying message for both romantics and realists.

Grade: B

A Previous Engagement releases in select theaters May 9.