Reel Toronto: No Heart Feelings
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Reel Toronto: No Heart Feelings

A humble indie film presents the city as its real, beautiful self.

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Well, isn’t this lovely. We often decry how Hollywood uses our fair city to play more “exciting, world-class” cities, missing the opportunity to shoot Toronto as its lovely self. And while some recent, higher-profile efforts have finally started giving Toronto its cinematic due, it’s in smaller, local productions that the voice of the city truly seems to emerge.

No Heart Feelings, first released in 2010, is firmly in that vein. Like David Bezmozgis’s Victoria Day, it simply presents the city as a real place, inhabited by real people going about their lives. Indeed, given the geographic and other correspondences, you might think of it as a relative of Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, without the same high emotional stakes. Heck, it’s pretty easy to watch the not-so-hip urban dwellers of No Heart Feelings and wonder if they might not run into the characters from either that film or the annoying hipsters of This Movie is Broken during all their forays into Trinity-Bellwoods Park and its environs.

If you’re a Torontoist reader (and we’re guessing you are) there’s a good chance you’ll recognize something of yourself in these characters, who perambulate around downtown and who, we’re guessing, voted en masse for someone other than Rob Ford. (Actually, the Torontoist connection runs a bit deeper: former editors Alison Broverman and Sarah Lazarovic act in and co-direct the film, respectively).

No Heart Feelings played in local theatres and got some good reviews when it came out, then it disappeared into the ether. Last month, though, it came out on DVD and on-demand, giving us a chance to give it a proper look.

As with other set-in-Toronto movies, we can’t claim this works our detective skills so much as our “just read the sign on the window” skills, but it’s still a fine way to appreciate the city’s cinematic side.

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So, we start by meeting our female lead, Melanie, played by Rebecca Kohler. She works at a cubicle at this office, which is at Xenophile Media, in Kensington Market.

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We spend a fair bit of time in this hood. This brunch, for example, is at Aunties and Uncles.

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The exterior is seen here.

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But you can do more than just brunch in the market. You can get some groceries with your new pal, Lewis (played by Dustin Parkes)…

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…and then grab a coffee over at I Deal Coffee.

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In a timely predictor of the recent discussions over tolerating drinking in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, the characters enjoy a clandestine mickey over at Bellevue Square Park.

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Not too far away, they stroll down Spadina

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…and take it through Chinatown.

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The aforementioned Lewis has a pretty sweet condo….

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…with a pretty sweet view, eh? It’s in the Pinnacle condos, right near the ACC.

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This as good a time as any to mention the random Toronto cameos. If you’re fan of National Post quipper-and-drawer Steve Murray and have always wanted to see him showing off his work, in his underwear, drinking a fine VQA wine from Pelee Island, here’s your chance. You might not get another.

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Later in the movie, an exhibition of his work is presented at Dundas West’s Loop Gallery

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…which you can also see from the outside here.

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After that meet cute in Kensington, Mel and Lewis stroll the streets and end up at a garage sale manned by Ron Sexsmith, of all people.

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They buy a bike for Lewis and take a golden-hour trip south…

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…through Trinity Bellwoods.

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There, they picnic (yes, with more barely-legal booze)…

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…and play badminton.

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After this handsome shot of the DVP, we find our perennially peripatetic couple…

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…meeting up at the Broadview Avenue Dairy Queen

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…before biking down into the valley…

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…and enjoying a drinky-poo at the Brickworks.

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A good place to spot your favourite Torontoist contributor in real life is right here, on the Press Club patio…

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…the exterior of which is seen here.

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And a good place to watch some baseball for free is here, where the Maple Leafs (not the hockey team, but the intercounty baseball team) play at Christie Pits.

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And if you’re still not Toronto’d out, you can also spot the AGO…

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Queen Street West

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…and Mel’s place at 401 Richmond.

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And you can even check out the DVD’s deleted scenes to watch people walk down College

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…and head into Sneaky Dees.

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Lewis even takes a solo walk by the base of the Gardiner…

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…the city shining behind him.

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Just when you can’t handle any more of your familiar haunts, the cast and crew decamp for a denoument set up north at a cottage.

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On the way out of town they take Yonge Street north, stopping for corn at Kernel Simpson’s Farm

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…and crossing 6th Line. Yes, if John Graves Simcoe’s pal Sir George Yonge had ever set foot in our dominion, he’d be proud to be such an important part of this film.

Superficially, it’s easy to draw some links between No Heart Feelings and Take This Waltz. They’re both “relationship movies” where the twenty-something characters have picnics in Trinity Bellwoods and coffees in Kensington Market—and, let’s be honest, the group of films that meet those criteria is pretty small. Whereas Polley’s film is finely crafted, the more improvisational indie tone of No Heart Feelings yields something perhaps a bit less affecting but also more relatable and real. If only there was a scene of the characters checking out the latest Ford follies on Torontoist