I Like Movies Review –

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

A Canadian film called I Like Movies just feels like the right choice for a film festival like the Toronto International Film Festival. Something much more than just movies, it is an effective coming-of-age dramedy that is not only shows vision but is also hilarious and boasts plenty of heart. An early 2000s time capsule, the film is sure to hit harder for those who happened to grow up during that time period. A dissection of filmbro culture, movies are a refuge for a socially-inept young man but in order to grow up, he has to learn to be more present and how to live in the real world. What ultimately makes the film work as well as it did was its charm, heart, and relatability and that begins and ends with not only strong writing but also a breakthrough lead performance from Isaiah Lehtinen who is the undisputed heart of the film. Though his character may not always be the most likeable, audiences can still empathize with him and his dreams despite the fact that he may not always go about them the right way.

I Like Movies follows a 17-year-old small town socially-awkward movie lover named Lawrence (Lehtinen) with dreams of going to film school at NYU. He was so dead set on that dream that he was blinded to anyone and anything else in his life. Lacking the means and any kind of interpersonal experience, isolating himself within the world of movies for which he considered himself to be an utmost expert and authority left him underdeveloped and unprepared whether he was willing to admit it or not. Believing it to be his destiny, he came off as pretentious and entitled and rubbing his best friend Matt (White), schoolmates, and mother (Krista Bridges) the wrong way. Lawrence had plenty of learning and growing up to do and he would get that opportunity working at a video store for a burnt out manager named Alana (D’Ugo) for whom he’d form a bond. Alana’s backstory was a tragic one where she perhaps needed Lawrence to help her face that past and finally heal and move forward. The two made for some strong arcs. Lawrence’s trajectory was a predictable one but it didn’t make it any less compelling to watch in what was an earned redemption arc while Alana was quickly a very rootable character.

The best part of I Like Movies is the stellar performances from Lehtinen and D’Ugo as Lawrence and Alana, the hearts of the film. Lehtinen’s effortless charm and relatability and youthful energy make him a compelling character to watch even though he may rub some the wrong way as a young teen who literally grew up in front of our eyes. D’Ugo brought depth as a tortured woman defeated by her past. As that pain started to turn around and her confidence slowly came back, it was something truly powerful to behold.

At the end of the day, I Like Movies is a surprise but is nonetheless a winner coming-of-age story. Those who like movies will more than like this one.

*still courtesy of VHS Forever Inc.

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