Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 01/24/05 05:25:14

"Love Actually for the dysfunctional crowd"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: I must say, it's been a rough few decades for the romantic comedy genre, which really makes it a daring move to dive into this genre with an independent film. Usually, nobody will release a rom-com unless it has one of the magic three ingredients: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan or Kate Hudson. Writer/director Anthony Ng was clever in his approach to this outing, however, in that he's gone the complete opposite way of most in the genre. Instead of going for cutesy big-name fluff actors for his leads, he's gone for unknown, oddball, completely unexpected geeks, adding realism to a place where realism usually fears to tread. And the film is all the better for it.

A lonely travel agent with a terrible haircut spots a lonely girl in a laundromat and asks her if she has a spare dollar so he can finishing his drying. A conversation happens, sparks fly, love is in the air, they go out to dinner at a beautiful restaurant.... no, okay, I'm lying. He does borrow a dollar, but the conversation doesn't happen. Instead, there's confused, petrified silences and complete neuroses. Which, let's face it, we can relate to a lot more than Sandra Bullock asking for our hand in marriage as underwear tumbles in the background.

Across town, a woman working in an all-night print shop, wondering why she can't find love, meets a copier repairman who speaks no English, is half a foot shorter than her, and looks to be very much not her type. But he notices her, and she notices him, but they say nothing, instead letting each other walk off into the night.

A photomat clerk spots himself in the background of a customer's photo and becomes obsessed with the woman in the foreground, as his current girlfriend becomes more and more distant. He knows nothing about this mystery lady, but he must get to know her. He just has to... but can he really bring himself to do more than obsess?

These are the three starting points of some of the most pure romances ever put to screen in an independent film. Everyone involved is a geek... no, scratch that - they're NORMAL people, since, let's face it, normal folks are really geeks. They're you and me. They're scared little children wishing the stuff they read about in books or saw on TV screens actually happened in real life. And while these people do so, they each have one moment of extreme clarity, one second of cajone-carrying courage, and their lives change forever.

Hilarious in parts, poignant in others, and just weird enough to keep you interested even when the pace starts to slow, 212 has a real world charm mixed in with an otherworldly style that not only keeps you glued to the screen, but it announces filmmaker Anthony Ng as one to watch in the future.

A beautiful film, and even if it's a little too low budget to probably get picked up and shown as wide as it should, that's more an indictment of Hollywood than it is of the filmmaker. A pleasure to watch.

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