Jackie and Ryan is a romance movie that honestly is a little paint-by-numbers. You have your frazzled separated single mother (Katherine Heigl) who moved back home away from the big city that she had wanted so much to escape to. She, through a typical clumsy misfortune, meets a drifter (Ben Barnes) whom she thanks for his help by taking him home and feeding him, where her mother looks down on him and the daughter, beautiful and wide eyed, looks at him with wonder.
He, of course, ends up staying with the family for much longer than the few hours that he anticipated and that is where we get our movie.
In a summer full of explosions, superheroes and action movies, what is there for us who want a good romance to see? This movie is definitely the answer to that. While it is a story that we have seen more than once, it doesn't keep on the typical tropes that we have seen in romance movies, that might have kept the mother on too long for a joke. They don't focus on the ex husband too much either, just the struggle that Jackie is feeling. She wants to be independent and to take care of her daughter, but having not worked in so long she is finding difficulty in that.
Ryan, on the other hand, has been wandering around for most of his life. He travels with his friends who play music with him, and ends up in Utah looking to visit one of them. In meeting Jackie, he sees her struggles, and brings a kind of peace to her. He helps out around the house and teaches her daughter to play music, and gives Jackie someone who believes in her and her strength, and in a time when you are just trying to get your life back together and keep it together for your daughter, I think that is all anyone could want.
Ben Barnes is an amazing singer and a man who any girl could fall for while Katherine Heigl shows a softness that I haven't seen in a long time from her. She's definitely played cutthroat and angry before in her roles, and there is a bit of that here to be sure when dealing with the husband, but there is also a kindness and love that she shows towards her daughter and a vulnerability that she shows towards Ryan that I haven't seen her portray in a very long time. One of the most satisfying moments of the film is when she is onstage and sings with her daughter, and honestly she has an amazing voice.
The soundtrack is just beautiful, mostly Ben singing old folk songs, and Katherine in two of them.
The backdrop of Utah in the film is amazing, giving it a sense of isolation and beauty letting you focus on these two characters whom you spend most of the film with. There are scenes with the band mates and his friend's wife, as well as the mother, but it always comes back to just these moments with Jackie and Ryan, focusing on them, which is what makes the title of the film so apt and perfect. It's their story, just focused on this short period in their lives but one that would stick with them well after it was over.