Love-letters to cinema are a dime a dozen, but not many can lay claim to having the heart and humour of Chandler Levack’s nostalgic, charming debut.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
It’s 2003, Netflix is still just a postal service, video stores are thriving, and the multiplex is king – what a time to be alive for teenage film buff, Lawrence Kweller.
Whilst the love language of his cohorts consists of sharing a Wendy’s thick shake and fries, Lawrence’s charm offensive involves waxing lyrical about the acting chops of Adam Sandler (before the Safdie Brothers made him cool). When his best friend attempts to steadily distance himself from the desperately uncool and defiantly uncouth young cinephile, Lawrence finds solace in his new job at the local video store, “Sequels”.
Cue Lawrence becoming hopelessly attached to the store manager, Alana, several years his senior, and in terms of emotional maturity, way out of his league. But the wannabe-wunderkind is undaunted, his pretension masking an endearing sensitivity while also making him deeply unpopular. Writer/director Chandler Levack gives no free passes, and affectionately holds her protagonist to account throughout for his selfish tendencies and problematic views, not least those regarding women filmmakers.
Lawrence may be a delusional dork, but Levack’s smart script and Isaiah Lehtinen’s stellar performance allow his tender vulnerability to shine through, resulting in a heartfelt, neatly crafted coming-of-age film. – Matt Bloomfield
“Levack understands the limits of what she has to work with for her debut feature — this was an ultra-low budget project, with Levack citing a figure of $125,000 in one recent interview out of TIFF — and wisely decides to work within them. Backed by strong writing and even stronger performances, the result is a film that is small but not slight, sweet but not cloying, and the kind of thing that can make even a cynical critic like movies again.” — Katie Rife, Indiewire