By Hector Preston (he/him)
This review is a part of our Glasgow Film Festival review series. The Film Festival is running between 01/03/23-12/03/23, don’t miss out and go and see some incredible new films.
I Like Movies is Levack’s first feature length film, following on from her filmmaking debut, the short film, We Forgot to Break Up, which won the award for Best Canadian Short Film at the 2017 Whistler Film Festival. Having its European premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, I Like Movies follows Lawrence, a 17-year-old cinephile in his last year of high school in Canada, played by Isaiah Lehtinen.
Having applied to New York University to study film, Lawrence gets a job in a video store to fund his tuition, where he forms an intense and somewhat tricky relationship with the store manager, Alana, played by Romina D’Ugo. His obsession with film and his relation to it, whether that be through his studies or his routine, is only exacerbated through his new position, which allows him to totally enshroud himself with cinema and become blind to anything and anyone that he does not deem directly relevant.
Lawrence wants to make films ‘that actually matter’. This isn’t a new idea, nor one that offers any real sense of clarity. However, what ‘actually matter[s]’ is presented in a state of constant flux, both between and within the characters themselves. Vague as Lawrence’s remark may be, what follows is an exploration of the way in which one’s priorities not only come into conflict with those of others, but also with oneself.
Lawrence’s obsession with film fuels an obsession of self, and as he becomes so entrenched in the reality he envisions for himself he alienates those around him who ‘actually matter’. The line between passion and obsession is problematic and complicated, and Levack manages to subtly convey how an ostensible hobby can morph into an essential addiction that has destructive powers both within and outside of the individual.
Lehtinen’s performance does occasionally stray into the extreme when it comes to his furious outbursts, which are usually aimed towards his mother, played by Krista Bridges. While they emphasise his inability to accommodate any stance contrary to his own, there are moments when it feels unnecessary. However, Lehtinen’s portrayal of a nervous, socially awkward, and unknowingly egocentric teenager captures the difficulties of being trapped in obsession. Lehtinen’s performance is backed up by D’Ugo, Bridges, and Percy Hynes White, all of whom capture the challenges of navigating someone else’s obsession, whilst successfully maintaining the film’s quietly comic side.
Rather than trying to satisfy the search for what ‘actually matter[s]’, Levack provokes and probes this notion as a whole, offering an insight into how destructive a personal obsession can be to oneself and those around them.