Extremely Unique Dynamic


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Extremely Unique Dynamic
"Not everything here is successful, but the delicately handled character material pays dividends, and the real life chemistry between the two stars carries across well to their characters."

“Write about what you know” is one of the worst pieces of advice ever given to creative people. It’s responsible for hundreds of tedious books about writers and dozens of equally dull films about filmmaking, most of which have exactly that same plot. There are exceptions, of course, but they’re rare. When one comes across a film with this premise made by, and starring, two relative first timers, expectations are unlikely to be high. Extremely Unique Dynamic, however, is something a little different.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that it’s not so much a film about filmmaking as it is a film about films about filmmaking, and quite alert to the usual problems. The second is that rather than relying on spoofery alone, it invests in character. It’s really a film about friendship for which all that meta content simply functions as a shell.

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The film was directed by Katherine Dudas, Ivan Leung and Harrison Xu. Leung and Xu play Danny and Ryan, lifelong best friends who are about to be parted when Ryan moves to Canada (which Xu has just done in real life, adding to the meta quality of the piece). As a way of enjoying their last weekend together, they decide to make a film. They’ve enjoyed fooling around with cameras since they were kids (there’s some great Super-8 style footage featuring Jason Sun and Lucas Liu as their younger selves). Although they both have ambitions as actors – and, in Danny’s case, as a rapper – they don’t expect to make it big in Hollywood overnight. They’d settle for being YouTube famous.

The stakes are pretty low, and whilst this is refreshing in a way, it makes it hard for the film to build up momentum early on. Gradually, however, a unique dynamic does begin to emerge. When Ryan says the film needs a secret, Danny suggests “What if I was secretly gay all my life?” It’s not hard to figure out the reason why he wants to do this, but that’s not important – what the film is interested in is the awkwardness he feels around the subject, and the way that, more generally, friends can know each other really well but still not actually know how to have direct conversations about the things that matter to them. Can they figure it out in the time they have left?

Recently screened at Inside Out in Toronto, this is a refreshing contribution to any LGBTQ+ festival because it doesn’t require romance or lust to make its dynamic work. Rather, the key factor is the sense of importance attached to sexual orientation in a context where it might not matter much at all, and the way that any consciously maintained secret can eat away at a friendship, leading people to second guess themselves and each other. This undermines Danny’s confidence in a way that also threatens the pair’s film project. “I worry that our movie is going to be only funny to me and you,” he says. So he deals with his stress by taking cannabis, with predictable (though not overplayed) consequences.

Not everything here is successful, but the delicately handled character material pays dividends, and the real life chemistry between the two stars carries across well to their characters. There’s also some entertaining further spin on the meta theme, which we get our first hint of when a stoned Danny briefly glimpses us, the audience. The discomfort of this experience is more effective because of the gentleness and warmth of the comedy elsewhere. It’s further balanced by an enjoyably daft post-credits sequence.

Extremely Unique Dynamic bites off a little more than it can chew, but that’s often a good sign in a first film, indicative of a willingness to push boundaries and do something genuinely creative. That was possible because the film was self-financed. One just hopes that Leung and Xu – who plan to work together again – will manage to exercise a similar level of control next time around.

Reviewed on: 29 May 2024
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During their final weekend together, two best friends test the limits of their friendship while making a double-meta film.

Director: Katherine Dudas, Ivan Leung, Harrison Xu

Writer: Harrison Xu, Ivan Leung, Katherine Dudas

Starring: Ivan Leung, Harrison Xu, Hudson Yang, Nathan Doan, Lucan Liu, Kelly Lynch, Jason Sun, Valerie Yu

Year: 2024

Runtime: 73 minutes

Country: US


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