JK Simmons, Josh Wiggins and Julie Delpy star in this drama about a father and son trying to navigate life and love after the loss of their wife and mother.

Written and directed by Kurt Voelker, The Bachelors follows a father and son as they up sticks and move across the country in order to start life afresh following the death of their wife and mother. Bill (JK Simmons) and Wes (Josh Wiggins) transpose their lives to a private school where Bill takes up a teaching job and Wes attempts to navigate high school. It’s there that they meet Carine (Julie Delpy), a divorced French teacher who takes a shine to Bill and enlists Wes as a tutor for Lacy (Odeya Rush), his shy classmate whose parents are separating. 

It’s not covering particularly novel ground, and where the story goes is predictable to say the least, but that doesn’t detract from small moments of pure joy in Voelker’s narrative. One scene in which Wes attempts to get his father back on the dating scene by encouraging him to ditch his tighty whities and opt for more extravagant boxer shorts is a quiet but endearing moment in the film. It allows Simmons and Wiggins to delve into the everyday territory of paternal relationships, and focus on the bond between father and son at its most domestic level.

Despite the conventionality of the narrative arc, The Bachelors strays away from traditional rom-com territory in many ways. Odeya Rush, who bears a striking similarity to a young Mila Kunis, is superb as the troubled child of a broken home. Most recently seen in Oscar-nominated Lady Bird, here Rush plays Lacy, a young woman struggling with self-harm and a tendency to skip meals. In Wes, she finds a force for stability and hope. Wiggins, too deftly avoids the conventional narrative stereotypes of the slightly dorky boy who falls in love with the beautiful girl next door. Although their relationship eventually winds up as expected, it’s told in a way that avoids feeling contrived.

The same can be said of the relationship between Carine and Bill. The relationships formed a widower and a divorcee are well trodden ground in cinema history, but in The Bachelors, it’s Simmons’ capacity to channel the breadth of the emotional spectrum that renders his performance outstanding. Battling with letting go of his late wife after she lost her battle with cancer, and trying to maintain the semblance of a normal life with his son, Bill’s internal turmoil is well played by Simmons, and the anguish with which every day is laced seeps into every scene.

Yes it’s been done before, and no it doesn’t necessarily have anything particularly new to say about love after loss, but that doesn’t mean that The Bachelors isn’t written and acted superbly by both Voelker and his lead cast. It’s a bittersweet reminder that life goes on, and that, even in a bad patch, there’s always hope.

★★★☆☆

The Bachelors is released on 30th March.