The moral of the broken love story Definitely, Maybe, Moral No. 1, is that even when love goes awry, the children are the happy ending...unless it's Moral No. 2 about accepting new parental love as a source of succor and happiness for yourself and your parent.
Maya Hayes (Abigail Breslin) has had some Introduction to Sexuality classes that bring up thoughts about how she came into being and how her mother and father met. She asks her father, Will Hayes as played by Ryan Reynolds, to tell her the story. Reluctantly, on the eve of his divorce from Maya'a mother, he finally agrees but chooses, after more questions from Maya about his past girlfriends, to veil how he met Maya's mother, the woman who is divorcing him, by weaving her story into the story of his two other "serious girlfriends." While Abigail Breslin is always captivating and entertaining, there seems to be a sort of short circuit between her and Reynolds, as a result, their scenes feel like first rehearsals instead of finished products.
Maya listens to her dad tell his love-life story while taking notes so she can solve the mystery of who her mother was before she was her mother. In other words, which of the disguised girlfriends was the one he married. Dad tells about his loves and loses so well that in the end, Maya can give him a hand-off to Girlfriend of Second Choice to start a new and happy life after the unhappy loss of his love and the sorrow of divorce, which is Moral No. 2: Kids of divorces can be happy too if they accept new parental loves as friends for themselves and comforts for their parents.
Another of the problems with Definitely, Maybe is that the script gives us no compelling reason for a father to take his elementary school age daughter through the emotional roller coaster ride of his past love life. The explanation, "We met and fell in love in college. I went to make my way in New York. She came to see me. I knew how much I loved her. I asked her to marry me," would have sufficed for a kid struggling with Sex Ed and an impending parental divorce. But a movie told that way would been Will's life retrospective framed in a pub over a pitcher of beer and Moral No. 1 stating "All broken marriages are good because of the children born in them" (Will: This story has a happy ending. Maya: What is it? Will: You.) would have been harder to get to.
From a directorial standpoint, Definitely, Maybe seems uncoordinated. Tales can be told by jumping around through past and present but Definitely, Maybe doesn't pull it off with a convincing feeling of the same life being lived in all parts. Director's fault? Actors' fault? Ryan Reynolds is a casual-style actor; even in emotionally pitched scenes he is "laid back" and placid, which, in Definitely, Maybe, interferes with his ability to convincingly construct bridges between chronologically separated sequences and across life episodes that involve separate sets of people.
The disjointed quality may also be attributable to the editor, Peter Teschner, whose credits prior to Definitely, Maybe include Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004, Vince Vaughn) and Kicking & Screaming (2005, Will Ferrell). Although the actors in Definitely, Maybe are mostly highly acclaimed, like Abigail Breslin, Ryan Reynolds and Rachel Weisz, I can't highly recommend this film because it just has too many things wrong with it to make the interesting parts of the story interesting enough to be really worthwhile. (PG-13 for sexual content.)
Credits: Definitely, Maybe (2008), Director (Adam Brooks), Writer (Adam Brooks), Editor (Peter Teschner); Ryan Reynolds (Will Hayes), Maya Hayes (Abigail Breslin), Rachel Weisz (Summer Hartley), Elizabeth Banks (Emily).