Surprised By Oxford (2023) – Movie Review/Summary

“Surprised By Oxford” pushes you to recognize it as a romance film, but without having the lead obsessed with the idea of finding love.

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Title Card For Surprised By Oxford (2023)

Film Summary

Since her father betrayed her trust and abandoned her, Carolyn has been closed off. She poured into her studies while maintaining her relationship with her mom, but while capable of making friends and networking in the pursuit of career goals, love, lust, and things beyond friendship? She cut herself off.

However, at Oxford, she finds herself not only the new girl but also someone who is quite fetching in the eyes of a few young men. Kent is the main one who may have a chance, but with walls built up strong, Kent will have to look for a door, climb over, or try to find where the wall ends if he wants access to Carolyn’s heart.


Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.


Rose Reid as Carolyn
“Rose Reid as Carolyn,” Surprised By Oxford, directed by Ryan Whitaker, 2023, (Trafalgar Releasing)

An academic all her life, there was a time when Carolyn was open and loving, but after her father was caught committing multiple federal crimes and seemingly cutting off contact, she became closed off to everyone but her mom. However, with going to Oxford, in a foreign country, she has begun to open up again.


A senior at Oxford, in his last year, Kent’s faith presents a bit of a challenge in his dating life, especially due to misconceptions between his chastity and his beliefs.

Regina Knight

The first female provost of one of the collections of schools that make Oxford, she is well-respected and liked and becomes a maternal figure to Carolyn when she needs someone the most but doesn’t reach out to her own mother.


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Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)


It Feels Like A Smart Person’s Romance Movie

Ruairi O'Connor as Kent
“Ruairi O’Connor as Kent,” Surprised By Oxford, directed by Ryan Whitaker, 2023, (Trafalgar Releasing)

Now, this isn’t to say “Surprised By Oxford” is stirring and really digs into the complications of love or even balancing love and relationships with self-development. The film isn’t that complicated. However, what some may like is that alongside Carolyn’s challenges of love are topics and ideas about literature that can make the conversations you listen to when Kent isn’t around of interest.

Often, young adult romances are filled with the drama of friends, family, co-workers, and things like that. “Surprised By Oxford” instead gives you a literary analysis to fill in the gaps between the parts, and it is a bit refreshing. Mind you, have I read most or any of what was mentioned? No.

However, I was familiar enough with what was discussed to follow along and appreciate the personalities, even if I can’t remember one of Carolyn’s professors by name.

Regina Knight

Phyllis Logan as Regina Knight
“Phyllis Logan as Regina Knight,” Surprised By Oxford, directed by Ryan Whitaker, 2023, (Trafalgar Releasing)

Regina Knight is the provost for the College of Oxford that Carolyn attends, and she is the perfect example of why representation matters. More than once, Carolyn is led to believe that she cannot have a personal life, outside of friends and be engaged and a top member of her class. Professor Knight pushes her to change that perspective.

Strangely, Carolyn’s mother disappears, and their relationship becomes unimportant soon after Carolyn arrives in Oxford, and while she does make friends, who encourage her to socialize, their advice isn’t consistently taken or valued. This makes Professor Knight invaluable, for she is a reminder that, while things might be easier than they appear, you can find fulfillment in more than one facet of your life.

I mean, as one of the first women in her position, Professor Knight is setting precedents, and like the best mentors, she doesn’t see her role as just a personal accomplishment but one that can be used to inspire others. So, in the case of Carolyn, an American far from home, letting it be known she is seen and cared about and the college experience isn’t purely about academics and the right connections for a job thereafter, she opens her up.

Which, of course, is hard for someone like Carolyn, with trust issues, but the right words said by the right person always go a long way. So, while Regina Knight may not say things that can set a precedent for a general audience, there is no denying her impact on Carolyn and how necessary she is for the film.

Who Is This For?

Those who love a romance film focused on a woman struggling with love while fairly succeeding in all other aspects of her life.

General Information


Ryan Whitaker

Screenplay By

Ryan Whitaker

Based On Work By

Carolyn Weber

Date Released

December 1, 2023

How To Watch

Video On Demand




Young Adult

Film Length

1 Hour 47 Minutes

Content Rating

Not Rated

Noted Characters and Cast


Rose Reid


Ruairi O’Connor

Regina Knight

Phyllis Logan

Content Rating Explanation

  • Dialog: Some Cursing
  • Violence: Nothing notable
  • Sexual Content: Nothing visibly seen
  • Miscellaneous: Drinking


If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Beautiful Disaster: Similar lead who struggles with relationships due to their father’s actions
  2. The Bold Type (TV Series): If you’d like to watch multiple women navigate post-college life, this FreeForm show we can’t recommend enough

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

Discussion Items

Let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  1. When do you think is the most inopportune time to fall in love? High school, college, starting your dream job, or once you’ve done everything but found love?

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Surprised By Oxford (2023) – Movie Review


“Surprised By Oxford” feels like one of the first romance movies that didn’t feel ideal or pushing the idea that all that matters is finding the one. It recognizes balancing a relationship while working on self-improvement is a challenge and add in childhood trauma to the mix? Love requires the type of work that is challenging and sometimes may not feel worth it. However, there is only so much friendships, a network, and educational and career accomplishments can offer. So you have to ask yourself, is that enough?

  • Regina Knight - 83%
  • It Feels Like A Smart Person’s Romance Movie - 82%


  • Regina Knight
  • It Feels Like A Smart Person’s Romance Movie


  • N/A

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