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#TIFF22 Review: I Like Movies (Discovery)

September 8, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

The feature directorial debut of Chandler Levack, a film critic for the Globe and Mail, I Like Movies is the story of Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen), a 17-year-old cinephile in Burlington, ON circa 2002, who dreams of moving to New York and studying film at NYU. The title is what Lawrence tells people about his love of film, but for him it’s more of an obsession at the expense of literally everything and everyone else in his life, especially when it comes to his beloved Stanley Kubrick and Todd Solondz.

Lawrence takes his only friend Matt (Percy Hynes White) for granted, despite their long tradition of watching Saturday Night Live together every weekend, and his put-upon single mother (Krista Bridges), who tries to help him, is met with consternation and annoyance. The film charts how his life changes when he gets a job at his local video store, Sequels, under the tutelage of female manager Alana (Romona D’Ugo), a jaded woman who claims that she has grown to dislike movies.

What starts as a delightful and nostalgic ode to the video store era of the early-2000s blossoms into something much deeper, as Levack’s screenplay peels back the emotional layers to explore what we might now call toxic “film bro” culture, the dark side of the film industry, and how people can use movies as an emotional crutch. What makes the film work so well is the innate sympathy that Levack has for her central character, while also never letting him off the hook. Lawrence is a complicated kid who often acts like a pompous jerk to those around him without even realizing how he is pushing people away, and there is a sadness that is masked by his arrogance.

The film is carried by a breakout performance from Lehtinen, who has the difficult task of making us care about Lawrence, even as his behaviour alienates everyone around him. But Levack doesn’t give up hope on him, and neither should we. D’Ugo does equally compelling work as the one person who might be able to break through to him. As a thorny but compassionate portrait of an obsessive cinephile, I Like Movies is a small gem, filled with all of the humour and pathos that we want from the coming of age genre. I’m not ashamed to say that it resonated deeply with me.

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 9th – 6:15 PM at Scotiabank 13

Wednesday, September 14th – 6:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Wednesday, September 14th – 9:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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