IS THE rom-com taking its last few gasps before giving itself up to the great multiplex in the sky? After all, the genre is predicated upon the notion one person can pursue the other with a gesture of intent that’s outside the ordinary.

That’s why most of us have enjoyed Love Actually’s Hugh Grant knocking on endless doors, or Meg Ryan chasing Tom Hanks across America in Sleepless.

Yes, rom-coms aren’t real stories, but they’re inspired by, and they reflect the mad romantic gesture so many of us would love to be capable of. This week however, a real-life rom-com moment has come in for sharp criticism. The story features entrepreneur Justin McLeod, an American who has set up the no-swiping dating app Hinge, which aims to add sincerity – rather than a quest for sex – to the mix by focusing on personal detail. So far so good.

Yet, when McLeod explained why he came up with the business success story, it didn’t play well. Back in his college days, the app designer was in love with a “wonderful woman”, Kate, but he blew it thanks to a drug/alcohol dependence. Fast forward four years, and clean and sober he wrote to his ex with a view to a meeting. But she had a new boyfriend. He was “heartbroken” although his quest to find “someone as great as Kate” helped him create Hinge.

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Fast forward another four years and when Hinge was being launched in London McLeod emailed his ex to invite her to the launch. But Kate was now living in Switzerland, and engaged, although she said she could make time for a phone call. However, McLeod brushed that off, bought a ticket for Zurich, and a text later they were sipping latte in a quiet café.

A Hollywood-style romantic move – or caveman antics? Journalist Hattie Crissel’s reaction to this story highlights the opinion divide so prevalent in the male-female relationship scripts running these days, which all have a #Metoo subplot running through them. “Hearing this,” she says, “I can’t help but think that one woman’s romance might have been another woman’s stalking behaviour.”

Is it stalking? Isn’t love about impulse? What about Nora Ephron’s great line in When Harry Met Sally? “When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Wasn’t Ephron right? Shouldn’t someone be encouraged to take the chance, even if rejection seems likely, as Liam Neeson told his schoolboy son in Love Actually.

Now, don’t for a minute think this to be a covert endorsement for sex pests to go in pursuit of women. Don’t for a second think this to be in accord with any form of harassment, or even making females feel uncomfortable. That is entirely wrong. But it’s also wrong to write off romantic gesturers as potential stalkers. When Love Actually’s Andrew Lincoln held up the cards of declaration, and failed to woo Keira Knightley, he had the sense to walk away, as most men would.

Yet, in our confused, divided, conflicted society, the tendency is to condemn too quickly. It wasn’t too long ago we heard of the coffee shop employee who wrote his phone number on the lid and gave it to the female customer he fancied. And was sacked.

“What is dismaying about current trends is the tendency to return women to delicate, Victorian damsels who reach for the smelling salts if they hear a lewd joke,” says writer and feminism explorer Mary Kenny. “What next – chaperones?”

She’s right. We’re looking at the world of relationships through opera glasses; and what we see is either the cold dating site, swipe right for a s**g image in which both sides are complicit - or else a cold stark view depicting men as arrogant sex hunters.

It made me reflect on past behaviour; years ago, I got on a bus to London and it was almost empty. One attractive female however wearing a bright yellow kagoule and seemingly happy in her own skin sat alone on the back seat. I walked the length of the coach, looked at the space next to her and said “Is this seat taken?” She grinned. We dated for a year. But in the modern world would I be Tweeted as an aspiring reprobate?

Yet, there is reasoned thought out there. More recently on holiday, three young women talked of how they would be uncomfortable if in a bar with friends, they were chatted up by a man. It would mean they were “objectified, reduced to pick-up status and their personal space violated”. But what if he were fanciable? I wondered. They offered a collective grin which indicated their initial thoughts would be revised.

Yes, we all know the spotlight has to shine on those who use power to intimidate. But at the same time, women shouldn’t be too quick to cast all women in the role of delicate wallflowers.

So let’s work on the new rules of engagement. And when a bloke jumps on a plane to Zurich in the hope of coffee and a chat let's believe it’s his heart working hard – not harassment.

Incidentally, the story had a happy ending. The plane ticket gesture paid off and Hinge man McLeod married the love of his life. Martin Compston should play him in a movie.