Not every movie about twentysomethings fumbling their way through life is an insufferable mess of clichés, hopelessly pointed dialogue, and unlovable, selfish brats. Take, for example, the case of the long dormant but now resurfacing Toronto indie production No Heart Feelings. A collaborative effort from a trio of local filmmakers, the film finally sees a home entertainment release a couple of years after its initial theatrical run, but it still feels fresh and vibrant. It’s a simple film with rich characters and easily identifiable themes. It’s the Canadian equivalent of an American mumblecore production, but that’s not a slight against it.
There’s no real plot to speak of, but rather just a trio of people simply living through their lives and the pitfalls of relationships. Mel (Rebecca Kohler) has grown frustrated with a long distance relationship (her beau is voiced by CBC Wiretap’s Jonathan Goldstein) that’s been in one of the slowest freefalls ever recorded. Her roommate Chris (National Post columnist and illustrator Steve Murray) is a graphic artist in the middle of an okay but somewhat underwhelming relationship, but that’s probably because he seems more focused on a subtle crisis of faith regarding his work than anything else. Then there’s Lewis (Dustin Parkes), a Toronto born boy recently returned from some time in Vancouver that Mel becomes somewhat sweet on, ends up sleeping with, and then subsequently regretting it.
There’s a refreshing lack of contrivance to Geoff Morrison, Sarah Lazarovic, and Ryan J. Noth’s romantic comedy approach. It’s organic and sometimes wilfully awkward rather than forced. The casting of non-traditional actors in leading roles (especially Murray and even more so Parkes, who’s known primarily as a sports blogger but puts in some truly great work here) gives the sense of a movie that feels lived in rather than rehearsed to death. It’s a freewheeling character piece filled with normal people rather than having one extraordinary, larger than life, often priggish character at the centre. They are people that in spite of their flaws deserve to have some sort of piece of mind. They’re also well adjusted enough to make the viewer want to see them succeed. There’s nothing false about them
At the same time, it’s somewhat openly commercial and not as obtuse as some of its mumblecore brethren. It’s more scripted verite than forced obfuscation of the lives of the characters. For the most part these people are just hanging out over beers on a patio or taking strolls through Kensington Market or randomly buying a bike at a garage sale (run by a cameoing Ron Sexsmith), but yet the film is relaxed enough to not feel like it needs to hit every point about these character’s lives all at once. Every conversation metes out just a little more depth to these people and makes them all a bit more endearing. It’s not a depressing slog to sit through, and it’s all very well handled and constructed. It’s a slight, passing fancy, but they’re some great characters to spend a summer afternoon with.