Sparks kinda maybe almost fly between Lewis (Dustin Parkes) and Mel (Rebecca Kohler) in No Heart Feelings.
We dug the way that Chloe showed us a Toronto of cutting, architectural cruelty, and we’re basically in love with the fact that Scott Pilgrim takes on the world against a backdrop of winter-locked, greasy Annex locales. With the latest in Toronto’s on-film appearances, No Heart Feelings, the trend of spotting the familiar carries on. With the spirit of mumblecore in their hearts, trio of directors Sarah Lazarovic (who is a former Torontoist editor), Geoff Morrison, and Ryan J. Noth sketched out scenes for their cast of non-actors to improvise, and the resulting nearly-no-budget flick deserve props for its intense believability.
It’s summer in the city, and Mel (Rebecca Kohler) has just broken up with her long-distance boyfriend (long-distance acted over the phone by Jonathan Goldstein). She and her other nearing-thirty-something friends (including her roommate, played by the National Post‘s Steve Murray) drink, talk, and just sort of hang around. A friend of a friend, Lewis (Dustin Parkes), has just moved back to Toronto after a long stint in Vancouver, and he and Mel—with a touch of chemistry and a more-obvious shared loneliness—hook up, and then navigate the territory of being maybe-interested-but-maybe-not.
For some of us, the film may display the stuff of uncanny familiarity: drinks at the Press Club, brunch at Aunties and Uncles, an Ideal cup of coffee in Kensington. In between there are aimless bike rides, slightly awkward conversations, wasted hours at work, and a vague sense that the future should already have come by now.
This realism and believability left us feeling torn. There is something incredibly appealing about seeing familiar geographic and demographic turf onscreen—an undeniable pleasure to the sheer excitement of recognizing something, seeing yourself and your world reflected in something that someone else took the time to make. It’s like being on the inside of an inside joke, and we have to admit that it feels pretty great.
The trouble with No Heart Feelings is that it succeeds at what it sets out to do: it conveys a world with accuracy. This is fiction with all the fantasy sucked dry, and as a result, watching the movie feels not unlike indulging in a creeping session on Facebook or lazily eavesdropping in a coffee shop. (In fact, about half the non-actors are people we’re pretty sure we actually have seen in coffee shops.) The resulting feeling of voyeurism is enjoyable, but it may be a rather facile way to stroke our less-than-best selves. No Heart Feelings left us wondering whether—as Toronto gets more and more used to playing itself—recognizing our world is, or should be, sufficient.
We don’t want to sound like haters: No Heart Feelings is still charming and easy to watch, and you’ll probably be glad you saw it if you do. It plays at The Royal until September 2.