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I Like Movies ★★★★★



Director: Chandler Levack

Cast: Isaiah Lehtinen, Alex Ateah, Dan Beirne

Release Date: Glasgow Film Festival

For hardcore film lovers, we can all probably remember the big-screen delight that proved pivotal in turning this simple form of entertainment into a proper profession. When teenage me stopped throwing random facts about actors at my late mom in various car journeys, regularly replying with ‘alright Barry Norman.’ It happened to be the fresh-faced emo era of Jake Gyllenhaal, genre-hopping with Frank the bunny in the wonderfully weird Donnie Darko—that lightbulb moment made me want to be fully immersed in this art form.

That similar enthusiasm is undoubtedly shared here by Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen). Declaring he needs movies like he needs to breathe air. He takes immense pleasure in consuming Saturday Night Live sketches and Paul Thomas Anderson’s efforts, developing a taste level that he believes exceeds those around him.

With that mentality as we desperately scramble to escape a place that regularly leaves us unfulfilled. It is sadly too easy to slip into emotionally erratic behaviour and disregard those who have helped ground our upbringing. It authenticates catharsis through the fantastical world of cinema while giving us a vital lesson in the real-world toxicity that can feed into that culture. I Like Movies is a pitch-perfect coming-of-age story.

Far from the content potentially being known as just a Canadian filmmaker, he rebels against the criteria of class assignments. Lawrence harbours aspirations of going to NYU (New York University). This lofty ambition leaves his lanky Rejects Night best friend Matt (Percy Hynes White) and flustered mom (Krista Bridges) from mastering the art of damage control to prevent Lawrence from sabotaging every relationship he has established up to now.

Displaying naivety in how he achieves this sizable jump in his career, along with ineptitude in everyday social interactions. His true learning hub becomes Sequels Video, a video store that will leave you nostalgic for Blockbuster. When not cursing the prospect of selling multiple copies of Shrek. His excitable recommendations, which seem overdramatic to the outside world, prove a shot in the arm for disenchanted manager Alana (Romina D’Ugo), who has already had an unpleasant brush with the business.

A shrewdness in director Chandler Levack’s creative choices elevates I Like Movies far beyond a surface-level love letter to film. The opening credits are reminiscent of The Matrix, alongside the grainy VHS aesthetic of Lawrence and Matt’s schoolwork that riff on the classic balcony scene of Romeo & Juliet. Works that dealt with constructing an extremely relaxed, heightened reality and framing a romance from a higher vantage point that could end in tragedy. These inspired choices are in keeping with Lawrence’s inflated sense of self-importance in his relationship with cinema, which needs tough love dished out to him.

Its pop-punk-powered parodies delight, but your affection is earned adequately through its array of emotionally charged, perceptive reality checks as the intensive detail of Lawrence and Alana’s backstories are aired. Whether it is the confined close-ups of Lawrence’s staffroom anxiety in reliving a familial heartbreak that goes a long way in explaining the delicacy of its mother/son relationship. Or Alana’s impassioned first-hand attack on the treatment of women that she worries is a trait Lawrence may adopt. Such scenes embolden Levack to dissect the long-standing abusive culture that exists not just within the industry. But also the narcissism and sense of entitlement casual cinemagoers can have in interacting on platforms such as Letterboxd.

In Lawrence, there is a steep learning curve from the wicked comedic sensibilities of the film’s early infancy that mask a wealth of insecurity and trauma—to the gradual realisation of the error of his ways, enabling him to fully appreciate the wonderment he consumes and break the single-minded cycle when he interacts with new like-minded people as much as you buy into his energetic nature. It is how Isaiah Lehtinen sells those difficult moments that make his performance profoundly affecting. Far from a ‘placeholder friend’ with an unhealthy obsession for 1998’s Wild Things. The friendliness of Percy Hynes White’s Matt makes for a great comic foil for Lawrence, with their gleeful chemistry, especially in acting out intros for SNL, a pleasure to watch. Romina D’Ugo’s Alana captures the jaded appetite of a creative superbly, with one killer monologue about her acting experience fuelling a friendship with Lawrence that is riveting in its complexities.

When chasing our dreams, we can become intoxicated by the sentiment and lose sight of what made us start the pursuit, to begin with, in being prepared to deliver such harsh truths to balance out the giddiness. Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies is a refreshingly honest and unique cinematic experience that will leave many artists feeling indeed seen.

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