Review: I Like Movies

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TW: SA, Suicide

I Like Movies is precisely what you think it is, and much more.

On the surface, it’s a coming-of-age film paying homage to cinema through the lens of a teenage cinephile working at a video store. 

At its core, it is so much more. 

Chandler Levack’s first feature was made with hard work and dedication. No details were missed. From the era’s popular video aspect ratio to the cultural references, the film does not miss a beat. It may have been her first feature but it certainly didn’t feel like it. The semi-autobiographical screenplay, filled with film references, witty jokes, and some dark and severe undertones, is balanced throughout as to not overwhelm the viewer. On top of this, the serious scenes were usually unexpected due to some comedic relief prior to the big moments. This enabled a bigger shock value for viewers, who were caught off guard and it allowed the important moments to feel more genuine and heard. These moments are important to discuss not only in film but in the real world and more often than not, are usually pushed aside. The film doesn’t let that happen and I love it for that.

There’s one specific scene when Alana (Romina D’Ugo) talks about her experience in Hollywood with a ‘pervy producer’. Levack decides to stay on D’Ugo’s performance for a long take and lets her actor play it out. It becomes very emotional and D’Ugo excels in that scene. For me, that is the director knowing the power of performance and trusting the people she put in those roles to do their job. That scene might be the most ‘real’ scene in the entire film and it pays off tremendously, specifically for the directing choice. More women should direct films for many reasons but this scene alone would have been very different, if at all present if directed by a man.

Isaiah Lehtinen’s performance as Lawrence was a very pleasant experience. Even though he’s a narcissistic, misogynist, privileged character, you still feel like he deserves better in the end. The anti-hero movement is very much happening in this film and Lehtinen’s range as a comedic actor and a dramatic one is utilized properly, even though sometimes it felt like it was too much. However, it was never exaggerated. Overall, every performance was good with a lot of great scenes from the leads.

Seeing this for the second time at the International Film Festival of Ottawa (IFFO) this week, allowed me to be a little more attentive to specifics. Halfway through the film, we find out that Lawrence’s dad committed suicide, following a scene where he has a panic attack due to his friend Matt (Percy Hynes White) deciding to make the end-of-year film with Lauren P. (Eden Cupid), who got accepted to Ryerson for Film, instead of with him.  Lawrence has not been accepted anywhere at this point and it became too much for him. The panic attack in the backroom was better the second time around knowing about the traumatic experience he’s had to deal with on top of his teenage drama. Lawrence is feeling abandoned and people are starting to leave him, that context is felt the first time, but it’s more impactful during the second screening. However, I felt as though the reveal about his dad wasn’t as impactful under rewatch. I can’t fully wrap my head around why that is, but the overall viewing of the film was better the second time.

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As far as Canadian cinema goes, this has to be a top 5 Canadian film. For starters, it’s not your typical Canadian film in the sense of the word. Don’t get me wrong, it’s as Canadian as hockey but it’s not stereotypical like most Canadian films are. It’s a movie, based in Canada not a story around Canada. This means the movie could have taken place anywhere and still worked, but it takes place in Canada. I think that makes a huge difference. Canada isn’t a plot, it’s a country. There’s obviously local reference in there and some niche jokes about the country but any local film, whether American or European or Asian will have that. I appreciate it when local filmmakers do this because it makes it their own.  The new era of Canadian filmmakers and films will hopefully continue on this trend. We need our own identity as an industry and I think by just being us, staying on track, and not imitating our neighbours down south, we can get there. Canada can be part of your story, but it shouldn’t be the entire plot.

The last few years have been great for Canada in terms of film and tv productions, it will just keep getting better and better. I Like Movies will continue to influence young filmmakers, like myself, to do better and stay away from stereotypes. All in all, this movie should be watched by Canadians, cinephiles, and everyone else. It’s that good.

Chandler, if you see this, thank you, and make more movies.

More info & links:

  • Director: Chandler Levack
  • Cast: Isaiah Lehtinen, Alex Ateah, Dan Beirne, Romina D’Ugo, Percy Hynes White
  • I Like Movies on IMDB
  • I Like Movies Official Website

Zach Chabot

Film Reviewer

Zach is a film lover at heart and director. Don’t get mad if he dislikes your favourite film because it is personal, and he does want you to tell him about it on social media. @ZachChabotURL