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So This is Romance?
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by Natasha Theobald

"Quite charming, actually."
3 stars

AKA "Romance and Rejection". Apparently men get as confused and conflicted as women do when it comes to love and making it last. We long ago leaped the hurdle of acknowledging that women like and want sex as much as men (I think). This film is about men wanting romance and a lifetime together as much as women. Of course, it is unfair on both accounts to make sweeping generalizations. There are as many ways of thinking as there are people, I suppose. This film does, however, give a warm and funny glimpse into the patterns in and among a certain group of people bumping into and out of the lives of others.

Mike (Reece Dinsdale) is a man in his mid-thirties, a single, mostly starving musician. He is still trying to get over his last relationship with Helen (Victoria Smurfit), doing his best to play at the former-lovers turned friends thing. He is buoyed by the support of his artist friend Tony (John Hannah), who is hip deep in his own on-again, off-again thing. Mike also spends time nursing his novelist father (Frank Finlay), who has spent years of his life doing more drinking than writing, pining for Mike's mother (Susannah York), who left them both more than three decades before.

There are lots of switches and changes among the couples, break-ups and make-ups, quick sex and more slow-burning regret. The movie as a whole gives a sense that it is not necessarily about the right person but the right time with the right person. There also is a slowly emerging undercurrent which comes forth to a realization that people really do not change. The same thing that irritated you about someone the last time you were together will probably piss you off equally, if not more, this time around. So, you choose to put up with the person as they are or move along in the search of something different. For all of the heartache, the movie never loses an innately positive sense of hope for a better future, which makes even the guy-whining tolerable and chuckle-worthy.

In addition, there is some great comedy action, from a distance, even from the earliest frames, which had me laughing from the start. The history of Mike's romances, up to the beginning of the story of the movie, is briefly given in just a few small moments, but they are joyful, indeed. It sets the right tone and gives things a kick of energy out of the gate. Writer and director Kevin W. Smith also has a nice touch with the back and forth of dialogue, whether the goal is a laugh or something more wistful.

Reece Dinsdale has a lovely, expressive face with just the right grimace to make us feel his pain. He is brave, kissing pillows goodnight and trying to shake first date nerves in such a way that we can relate and remember all too well. The rest of the cast adds able support, especially the actors playing Mike's parents, who demonstrate that this generation is no more ridiculous or petty with sniping than the last.

While not necessarily groundbreaking, this film is an amiable way to spend ninety minutes. There are some solid laughs and a real sense of story, even with the yo-yoing relationships. If you can tolerate the moaning which accompanies the heartache, the rest is fairly welcome entertainment.

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originally posted: 02/12/04 09:49:42
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  02-Feb-1998 (NR)



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