September 14, 2018

VIFF 2018 | Must See BC – Flirting with 'The New Romantic'

"I felt like a goddamn lady."
Jessica Barden Hayley Law Carly Stone | The New Romantic | VIFF 2018

VIFF 2018—BC filmmaker Carly Stone's first feature The New Romantic, about a college sex columnist who explores the world of "sugar babies" (or mutually beneficial romantic relationships), comments without judgment on current trends of modern romance (or lack thereof) and impersonal hookup culture.

Starring Jessica Barden as Blake, your typical Canadian college student and an aspiring writer, her character appears to lack a certain obvious hook yet Barden's expressive face and mannerisms make enough of her character interactions click through charm alone. Blake's obsessed with love stories but has lost interest in her own love life despite writing a semi-regular sex column.

Riverdale actresses Hayley Law and Camila Mendes firm up the film's small but appealing cast as Blake's closest friend/roommate and the confident sexpot who introduces her to the sugar daddy lifestyle. Law's breakout cool girl performance—through mostly casual conversations enabling Blake—makes the wistful film flow with a natural energy also fuelled by other intriguing elements.

Jessica Barden Carly Stone | The New Romantic | VIFF 2018

Brett Dier and Timm Sharp as opposing love interests in her college newspaper rival and the older man looking for a younger kept woman do just enough to establish themselves while more importantly shedding light on who Blake as a romantic figure.

At a quick eighty-two minutes, The New Romantic feels brisk but fleeting. Stone's talent lies in introducing ideas and assembling her affable characters/actors together through interesting enough scenes. However, the indie (sort of) rom-com feels more like a television pilot or basic premise leading into something more substantial that never quite comes fully together.

Stone and her cast work to be slightly provocative in surface-level ways while dissecting timely conflicts in contemporary relationships. The New Romantic uses tropes and dramedy conventions to comment on the nature of our (un)romantic interactions. It's both cynical and hopeful in its aim to dramatize the detachment of today's culture of casual hook-ups.

The New Romantic screens at the 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Sea to Sky and BC Spotlight streams.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Montecristo

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