Sunday, March 18, 2018

SXSW with Abe: The New Romantic

I’m so excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the first time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

The New Romantic
Directed by Carly Stone
Narrative Feature Competition

The whole process of dating has undergone tremendous change over the years. Apps that match people online often mean that prospective partners correspond extensively – and quickly – without meeting face-to-face and might develop a rapport before ever even being in the same room. That can lead to a diminishing of the emphasis on courtship and romance, which might end up being more efficient but is also considerably less sentimental. There are those who have never known how things used to be but still pine for a more idealistic and sweet-natured progression into what could well be a lifelong relationship.

Blake (Jessica Barden) is a bright-eyed college student close to graduation who writes a sex column for the school newspaper that her editor decides to axe. Intent on proving that her life is interesting, Blake decides to become a sugar baby, dating a professor (Timm Sharp) who buys her expensive gifts in exchange for spending time with her and having a sexual relationship that he decides when to initiate. As she works to become part of her own story and competes with fellow student journalist Jacob (Brett Dier) to win a prize, she learns a lot about love and life, including the things that she never realized she wanted from a relationship.

This film earned a Special Jury Recognition for First Feature prize at South by Southwest, a deserving nod to the way in which Blake and this story so well capture a stage of life that’s vital to growing up and getting past unpleasant but ultimately necessary developmental experiences. Its title is analytic, as Blake narrates events and often ascribes an added meaning to them, noting how they would play out if they were featured in a romantic comedy from the 1990s. This film isn’t meant to break new ground entirely, but instead shows a current perspective on how love looks in the world, particularly through the eyes of someone who has yet to experience it.

Young British actress Barden, who has already delivered memorable performances in “Tamara Drewe,” “The Lobster,” and the Netflix series “The End of the F***ing World,” is wonderful as the bluntly honest Canadian protagonist, anchoring a film that feels refreshing even though it knows that it’s not reinventing the genre. Sharp and Dier serve their purposes well, contributing to a story that’s really all about Blake and her journey towards understanding what romance means now. It’s a sweet, energizing film that manages to be both entertaining and enduring.


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