Chandler Levack’s debut feature I Like Movies transports us to 2003 where we meet Lawrence Kweller, a 17-year-old budding film bro in his final year of high school. With graduation just months away – and his dream of NYU film school set to cost a pretty penny – Lawrence gets a job in a bygone place where any cinephile of the naughties would; a video store.
I Like Movies perfectly captures that point in teenagehood where everyone is just trying to figure out who they are. It’s a cringy, awkward stage of growth that can cause us to do and say things we’ll regret. Yes, the dismissive and condescending way he treats people makes Lawrence more of an asshole than most, but it still feels relatable, almost uncomfortably so.
It would be easy for this part of Lawrence’s personality to make the film difficult to get invested in, but Levack does a fantastic job of weaving in moments of vulnerability that allow us to more deeply connect with him despite his obvious flaws. It’s in these moments we see that Lawrence is just a struggling teenager desperate to find friends who share his fondness for cinema.
Levack also refuses to let Lawrence’s behaviour go unchecked. His narcissism and sexism are called out by the women in his life, and allowances aren’t made just because he’s emotionally stunted. Yet the film still allows him to grow.
An almost exhausting number of coming-of-age films take place in the likes of California and New York, which makes I Like Movies’ unabashed Canadianness all the more refreshing. Suburbs like Burlington, Ontario, are away from the artsy hubs, and makes stories like this hit even closer to home.
Acting can often be the downfall of indie films but this cast stands out as ones to watch, particularly Isaiah Lehtinen. He slips into the role of Lawrence with ease, playing him with the perfect mix of naivety, sarcasm and sympathy. His charisma was visible, and it’s not hard to see him going places after this.
Romina D’Ugo’s portrayal of Alana is compassionate and hard-hitting and it’d be a shame if it doesn’t get her noticed. Krista Bridges is great as Terri Kweller, and the way she grapples with supporting her son while being honest with him is manoeuvred with skill.
Obvious comparisons to coming-of-age films like Lady Bird will be made, but I Like Movies has more than enough verve to hold its own as a worthy and enjoyable coming-of-ager. It’s thoughtful and loving filmmaking and is truly a joy to watch.
The last GFF showing is today at 3:15, so catch it while you can!