A messy balancing act of romantic and sisterly love
It can be easy to blame anyone but yourself for your own adversity. For Sara (Aislinn Derbez) in Don’t Blame Karma (Qué Culpa Tiene el Karma?) it’s even easier, as her life consists of nothing but misfortune.
Directed by Elisa Miller and based on the No culpes al karma book series by Laura Norton, Don’t Blame Karma is a Netflix original, Mexican romcom of the friends-to-lovers variety. Sara’s high school best friend Aaron (Gil Cerezo) was the love of her life. But when he moved away to become famous singer “Aaron Star” and she never heard from him again, Sara figured this was just part of her curse of bad luck.
Ever since her younger sister Lucy (Renata Notni) cursed Sara–the five-year-old claimed she would steal all of her wishes–Sara can’t seem to hold onto a good thing. While the fashion designer struggles to keep her clothing shop afloat, everything she wants for herself happens to Lucy instead–including a surprise engagement to none other than Aaron Star. Sara tries to make herself happy for the Instagram-perfect couple. But it turns out that she never stopped loving Aaron herself.
Miller and her team of writers take pains to make Sara intensely relatable and likable, from her (unnecessary) fourth-wall breaking stare into the camera to her self-deprecating and sarcastic jabs. And Derbez lends the very awkward charm the role calls for.
As a sibling duo, Derbez and Notni are charismatic leads for a charming cast, even if they both have the tendency to overact in playing up their polar-opposite archetypes. Mostly, however, stereotypes work for this cheesy romantic comedy. all in all, Don’t Blame Karma is a saccharine comfort watch that’s able to lean into its more cringeworthy moments. The film only fails in where it tries to be different.
There are heartwarming messages about familial love and self-improvement to be taken from this romcom, though they come at a cost. Sara’s and Lucy’s storyline is flat in comparison to the spark that Derbez and Cerezo share as romantic leads. Yet their chemistry is shoved aside to focus on the much less compelling family dynamic, as well as the simple lesson Sara learns along the way.
The moments Sara and Aaron share tend to be cliché, but in the best possible way. Their romance ticks off the main friends-to-lovers tropes, with the characters sweetly recreating moments from their childhood. It’s a recipe designed to make audiences swoon.
All of that for Don’t Blame Karma to not quite fulfill its climax when it comes to Sara’s and Aaron’s love story, instead flipping the script and attempting a more subversive end for the romantic genre. “Attempting” is the key word. Because if you’re going to break away from a tried-and-true romcom formula, you have to have something worthwhile to say.