I Like Movies


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

I Like Movies
"Feels like a tribute to the kind of passion for film which it addresses." | Photo: courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen) and Matt (Percy Hynes White) are best friends. It’s the sort of implicitly understood, ritualised friendship which gives the impression of having been there since birth. Every weekend they watch Saturday Night Live together. Matt throws his mum out of her own living room so they can be their truest selves when doing so. They make films together. This one opens with a clip of Reject’s Night, their own spin on A Christmas Carol, which Lawrence chose to direct for class because he found the assigned topic – a video essay on bias in the media – boring. They’re supposed to be making the school’s end of year video together, but that’s not going to plan.

Is it Matt’s fault? There’s a girl he likes and he wants to bring her in as editor. She has real talent, as it happens, and the two click creatively, but Lawrence is appallingly sexist and unwilling to give any ground. But perhaps that isn’t the whole of the problem. They’ve never really been friends, Lawrence suggests. They’re just placeholders for one another until they move away and find their real friends. He doesn’t understand why this causes offence any more than he did with the sexism. He doesn’t understand very much – except, with all the effort he can muster, movies.

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Most of us have known someone like Lawrence at some point in life. He’s not very good at life so he takes refuse in one subject and insists on being right about every aspect of it, no matter how subjective it may be. A case in point: seeing a couple browsing for comedies in his local video store, sequels, and recommending Todd Solondz’s Happiness. Technically correct, but liable to ruin their evening, if not their whole relationship. This is, of course, much easier to forgive in a teenager who has little experience in the world, and a number of other characters here are charmed by his enthusiasm, which helps him to secure a job in the said video store. Underlying it, however, is a sense of entitlement which risks driving away everyone he cares about and destroying the opportunities open to him.

Shot in square format, ungraded and with sound apparently recorded on the camera itself, the film looks pretty rough, but once it gets going this actually complements its style. It feels like a tribute to the kind of passion for film which it addresses, and which is celebrated here even when Lawrence’s way of expressing it is not. Lawrence is set on going to film school in New York, with $90,000 a year tuition which it seems unlikely he’ll be able to save up in time. The film feels like a response to this, asserting by its mere existence that a strong story, compelling characters and a gift for comedy are worth just as much as following in the footsteps of award-winning auteurs.

As an uneasy chemistry develops between Lawrence and his boss Shannon (Romina D’Ugo), it’s clear that he’s forming a crush and that she’s enjoying having someone around who genuinely looks up to her, but when writer/director Chandler Levack chooses to take the film into dark places, he does so in unexpected ways. He handles the shifts in tone with impressive ease, and they’re well suited to the coming-of-age theme at the centre of this work. Despite the bleak subjects it touches on, it always retains its energy and humour, just as Lawrence remains likeable (at least from a distance) no matter how obnoxious his behaviour may be. Behind the banter, there’s real heart. The disintegration of Lawrence’s life as he realises that he may fall short of his dreams culminates in an incredible workplace disciplinary hearing scene which would be worth the price of viewing on its own.

Part of the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival line-up, I Like Movies is the kind of genuine independent which can be hard to get hold of away from the festival circuit, but it’s packed full of talent and one really hopes that cinemas will be brave enough to pick it up. It may not look polished, but it has what really counts in abundance.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2023
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I Like Movies packshot
A socially inept 17-year old cinephile gets a job at a video store where he forms a complicated friendship with his older female manager.

Director: Chandler Levack

Writer: Chandler Levack

Starring: Isaiah Lehtinen, Alex Ateah, Dan Beirne, Krista Bridges, Sarah Camacho

Year: 2022

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Canada

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