The older we get the more aware we are of the passage of time and the importance of being present. But when you’re in Grade 12, the world is at your feet and you’re just waiting for your real life to begin. In her feature debut, Canadian director and writer Chandler Levack taps into this impatience in the touching, coming-of-age, semi-autobiographical I Like Movies.
Newcomer Isaiah Lehtinen is Lawrence Kweller, an obnoxious movie-lover who can’t wait to leave Burlington, Ontario behind for greener pastures—in his case, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Lawrence aspires to be a director and is, let’s face it, insufferable in his cinephile ways, belittling his only friend Matt Macarchuk (Percy Hynes White) for his movie choices. To help pay for tuition, Lawrence gets a job at the local video rental store and befriends his manager (sort of). As he works towards graduation, Lawrence struggles with mental health issues and isolates everyone around him.
Lehtinen is perfectly cast as Lawrence. He leans into the arrogance of the character just enough for us to feel that texture of the character but backs off before turning audiences away completely. Krista Bridges and Romina D’Ugo also turn in affecting performances as Lawrence’s mom and manager, respectively, in richly written roles.
While based loosely on her own life, Levack’s gender swap proves to be a fascinating element of the film. Though a young boy is the focus, the fact that the film is being told through a female lens is felt throughout. Even more interesting is the new perspective gained from the 2003 setting — suddenly that budding film bro doesn’t seem so precocious. I Like Movies is deceptive in that sense; on the surface, it may appear to be a typical endearing coming-of-age tale steeped in early-2000s nostalgia. But there’s a compelling narrative under the formula that highlights the exciting talent of a new filmmaker.
I Like Movies screens as a part of TIFF 2022, which runs from September 8 to 18. Head here for more from the festival.