My understanding is that the three interwoven stories of Love Comes Lately are all based on separate short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
It’s interesting how the film connects them rather than simply presenting them separately in succession. The protagonist of the film is a Jewish man in his late 70s, an author who is best known for his short stories. So one of the three stories is about him—his relationship with his current girlfriend, his traveling around to give talks at colleges, etc.
But he also dreams, imagines, or writes the two other stories presented in the film. These stories also are about a Jewish man in his late 70s, though in quite different circumstances. One is about a man staying at a hotel in Florida, the other about a man in a retirement home getting to know his new neighbor.
The lead characters in all three stories are played by the same actor, and are similar in personality and other respects. They are somewhat timid and mild mannered, they have old fashion manners and class, and they are very much aware of the toll that aging is taking on their bodies, especially their sexual prowess. They are used to having a certain charm with the ladies, but fear that that is lessening, or at least their ability to act on it is.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on what strikes me as odd about the stories, and I think perhaps it’s that they contain many characters and events that don’t have a clear purpose. The stories are like trees with many branches, with branches and twigs on those branches. They grow until they stop, each branch ultimately dead-ending rather than all coming back together.
Characters come and go and mostly turn out to be non-essential. Things happen that seemingly didn’t have to happen to move the plot along. Threads of a story move along for a period of time and then are seemingly forgotten without coming to any kind of resolution.
Of the three, the story that comes closest to having a conventional beginning, middle, and end is the one that’s introduced third, which is the one about the man in the retirement home getting to know his new neighbor.
That’s also the story with the most unexpected twist. It seems very much to be moving in a certain direction, but the ending is completely different from anticipated. (A weakness of the story is that not only would a reader or viewer infer that a certain thing is almost certainly happening, but so should the protagonist, who inexplicably doesn’t. Granted, it turns out that’s not what’s happening, but someone in the protagonist’s shoes should certainly think it is.)
It’s probably the best of the three stories. I wouldn’t have said that while the stories were unfolding, but only in retrospect after seeing that it is the only one of the three that doesn’t head off in multiple directions and then just end. It’s a more satisfying narrative, plus its ending is interestingly unexpected and thought-provoking, encouraging speculation as to why what just happened happened.
That’s not to say, though, that the two stories with less conventional narratives don’t work. They have their moments as well—interesting observations about aging, the introduction of eclectic characters, etc. (The one set in Florida is the least realistic of the three, with the most elements of farce.) But the third one is the one I’m left thinking about the most.
Overall I’m not quite sure what to make of Love Comes Lately. It has a lightweight, whimsical feel to it at times, and as mentioned doesn’t really deal with a lot of the matters it raises, so I’m inclined to say it’s not substantial enough to rate very high. On the other hand, in its quirky way it maybe does have a fair amount to say about, among other things, the experience of being elderly and fighting the best rearguard battle you can in a fight you inevitably must lose.
I was never all that engrossed in this film, but it never lost me completely. It’s possible I wasn’t in the right mood for it when I saw it; I think there are times I might have been more receptive to it, especially if I had known going in to expect open-ended stories that aren’t intended to necessarily come together in conventional fashion.
Overall I’d probably rank Love Comes Lately around the middle of the movies I’ve written about so far, maybe slightly below.