No Heart Feelings
- Directed by Sarah Lazarovic, Geoff Morrison, Ryan J. Noth
- Starring Rebecca Kohler and Dustin Parkes
- Classification: PG
Get past the rather laboured pun in the title, and No Heart Feelings is a quiet delight. Quiet, because nothing much happens. Delightful, because nothing much happens in sharply observed and revealing ways. What emerges is a thin yet credible slice of Toronto life among the hipster crowd, twentysomethings who wear their light irony like heavy armour, only occasionally lifting the visor to peer out at the world head-on. As they do, the characters and the city fuse neatly - both relatively young, both self-conscious, alternating between energetic bursts of construction and anxious bouts of de-construction.
Appropriately, then, the film is framed in break-up scenes, once-solid relationships razed by life's wrecking ball. Mel (Rebecca Kohler) is the early victim, sitting on a front stoop and sifting through the debris. Inside, a house party rages and there, in an Altmanesque flurry of overlapping dialogue, we hear someone or other making this non-commitment to something or other: "I don't think I can't not do it." Yes, a triple negative struggling to seem positive - the lingo of the ironic class, and it rings perfectly true.
From there, on park benches and bar patios, the script follows Mel and friends through their journey into tomorrow. Of course, that's well-travelled turf in the movies. But the distinguishing mark here is the picture's acute sense of time and place. Working with a Lilliputian budget and a non-professional cast, the trio of directors (Sarah Lazarovic, Geoff Morrison and Ryan J. Noth) has managed to do in Toronto what Whit Stillman did in New York with Metropolitan - precisely capture particular mannerisms, turns of phrase, modes of dress, then allow all that specificity to resonate. So the threesome has made a virtue of necessity. When you're poor in money and scant of plot, get rich by deifying the details.
Wielding a surprisingly fluid camera, they've taken the same approach to the city, offering up specific but telling glimpses - of Kensington market in all its fresh avocado/rotten tomato variety, of bike paths that weave theatrically from urban exhaust to pastoral retreat. There's even a cinematic sight gag that Toronto everywhere invites: a crane shot that is literally a shot of a crane, its vast steel arm nurturing yet another embryonic condo.
As for that meagre plot, it touches on Mel's slow-to-develop feelings for Lewis (Dustin Parkes), just arrived from Vancouver to start a new job. Speaking of which, the hipsters' attitude to work is fascinating. Most toil in Web-related gigs, grateful for the paycheque yet bemused by how they earn it. But if the work has changed, the workplace has not, and a drone's complaints are classic: "I've got five bosses and, all together, they've got, like, one sense of humour."
Classic too, even among the irony-clad, is the trodden path from flirtation to sex to mild regret, sometimes leavened with rising hopes. En route, the amateur casting succeeds for the simple reason that, in this case, self-conscious acting is a perfect fit for self-conscious characters. They, and the nothing much they do, are equal parts endearing and annoying. But the mix is deliberate, maybe even wise, a quiet argument that the search to "find yourself" is a dead end at any age. In a rare moment of unfiltered candour, dear annoying Mel puts it best: "You're always going to be the person you are, except a few years later."