Credit: Patrick Redmond/Netflix
by Ayeen Forootan Featured Film Streaming Scene

Irish Wish — Janeen Damian

March 19, 2024

Irish Wish marks the second collaboration between Janeen Damian and Lindsay Lohan, after their lukewarm yet distinctly feel-good Falling for Christmas. Far from the wintry Yuletide atmosphere of that film, the director-star combo here moves to the emerald summertime of Ireland. Irish Wish follows Maddie Kelly (portrayed by Lohan), an assiduous New York book editor who’s madly in love with the showy, best-selling author Paul Kennedy (Alexander Vlahos) and obsessively dreams of marrying him. But things don’t go as planned, and three months later Maddie awkwardly finds herself as a bridesmaid at Paul’s wedding, to her childhood friend Emma (Elizabeth Tan), taking place, of course, in the land of saints and scholars. But as one can easily anticipate, it’s also during this trip that Maddie will run headfirst into a meet cute — of the opposites-attraction variety, arguing over an identical bag at the airport — with James Thomas (Ed Speleers), a young English heartthrob, itinerant photographer, and her future soulmate. There’s a magical wrinkle though: a couple days after her arrival, Maddie sits on an old stone bench and secretly expresses her desire to marry Paul, before the strange fairy-like Saint Brigid (Dawn Bradfield) appears to mischievously grant her wish. In true Freaky Friday Lohan fashion, Maddie wakes up the next morning in an alternate “what-if” world where she realizes she’s about to marry her dream guy after all. From this moment onward, we’re firmly in “be-careful-what-you-wish-for” romance territory, eventually and playfully leading Maddie to an understanding of her true desires and acknowledgment of authentic love.

It’s largely unnecessary to detail the specifics of what comes next in Irish Wish: formulaic, generic rom-comisms gradually unfold. It’s equally obvious that this fairytale romance set against bewitching Irish landscapes (beautiful lakes, vast seaside cliffs) and quaint local hangouts (the genre staples: a bookstore, a pub, a castle-esque mansion) will most vividly present plenty of postcard-ready visual clichès. But the good news is that the film’s overall narrative and aesthetic fabrications tend more toward a nostalgic tone and mood, with the film’s pictorial textures taking their cue more from late-’90s and early-2Ks rom-coms than the excessively tired and overused Hallmark trademarks of the present streaming age. On top of that, Lohan’s glamorous and delightful screen presence alone brings quite a solid anchor here, and it’s again admirable to see the way Damian is so keenly aware of how to spin her star’s iconic mien as a former teen idol (now in her mid-30s) to maximum effect: for example, a scene early in the film where Maddie wears glasses while applying lipstick in front of a mirror.

In other words, despite the project’s unambitious predictability, if Irish Wish succeeding at presenting a bouquet of harmless joy and lovey-dovey escapism, it’s largely on the shoulder’s of Lohan’s persisting ability to imbue sweetness, charm, and energy to any scene she’s in. She also shares a convincing chemistry with the amicably charismatic Speleers — even if it’s a bit scattered across the runtime — and their collective presence supports the film’s vibrant compositions, eye-candy wardrobe, and magical vitality conjured by picturesque rural Ireland. It’s in this that even Damian’s occasionally kitschy sensibilities find the right footing, as the director manages to suitably control the narrative dynamics and smoothly execute its visual arrangements without them playing out as hastily assembled, mawkishly forced, or emotionally insincere. If all this sounds like exaggerated praise, it goes without saying that Irish Wish has a very clear ceiling and is no threat to becoming a rom-com classic by any stretch of imagination. But what it does do is keep the early days of the Lohanaissance alive, and reminds viewers how her incomparable charm offers promise for better days and projects to come.

DIRECTOR: Janeen Damian;  CAST: Lindsay Lohan, Ed Speleers, Ayesha Curry, Alexander Vlahos;  DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix;  IN THEATERS/STREAMING: March 15;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 33 min.