Canadian Film Fest 2016: CHASING VALENTINE (2015) – Movie Review
Quirky love stories are a breath of fresh air in a genre that rarely features anything new. Especially when those quirky love stories rely more on serious and dramatic situations, than silly ridiculous-ness. One such Canadian film has touched the heart, in a story that’s as engaging as it is endearing.
Check out my Spoiler-Free Movie Review of ‘Chasing Valentine’, premiering on April 2nd at the 2016 Canadian Film Festival.
The Canadian Film Fest is a wholly Canadian film festival (obviously) that features home grown Canadian films in order to elevate and celebrate excellence in films made outside the Hollywood norm. Held in the Downtown Toronto area, this year’s Festival takes place from March 30th to April 2nd. More information and (more importantly) tickets for the Festival can be found on their website.
After experiencing the loss of his girlfriend, Chase (Adam Langton) is living a life in shambles, unable to move on. After repeated attempts by his friend Brad (Brad Cowen) to ‘get out there’ and socialize, an eccentric woman enter’s Chase’s life and completely flips it on its head.
‘Chasing Valentine’ is an unusual movie featuring paralell storylines of Chase’s situation, along with the identity crisis of a call girl named Valentine (Gwenlyn Cumyn), specializing in fulfilling the unusual appettites of her clientele by becoming different people herself. When their stories intersect, that’s when the movie truly begins.
With Toronto as the backdrop, Director Navin Ramaswaren wonderfully tells the story of two people in the same busy metropolitan city; one who has exiled himself to his apartment and the other, who is attempting to literally discover who she is. Ramaswaren seamlessly blends the natural outdoor setting of the locales, with the emotionally charged on-screen events, giving the story that much more depth and a sense of real placement. This is crucial in a story where the environment occupied by the main characters, really defines the individual states of their emotional well being.
The way cinematographer Bruce William Harper shoots the movie with a kind of disconnected realism, creates a visually stunning atmosphere that feels personal, without taking focus away from the characters. Most notable are the early flashback sequences juxtaposed with Chase’s memories of his past love, that amazingly convey a sense of displacement in time, that almost seem to mirror’s his own feelings at the time. Adam Langton brilliantly depicts Chase, and initially pulls the audience in with his silent despair and grief. Langton plays Chase as timid and indifferent, but gradually evolves him into an emotional vested character, and the transformation is subtle yet amazing.
The standout performance here though, has to be Gwenlyn Cumyn, who is a natural delight. Appearing on screen for the first time in the film in a school girl outfit with a silver wig, armed with a faux German accent, Cumyn steals almost every scene she is in thereafter. Valentine is essentially the subject of the story, as her free spirit pulls Chase out of the dark pit that he’s relegated himself to; while his insistence on the conventional brings her life into much needed focus. Cumyn is wonderful to watch as she goes from obnoxiously intrusive to silently expressive in her emotional journey throughout the film.
Despite its emotionally heavy story, ‘Chasing Valentine’ has many smile-worthy moments. Brad Cowen provides the humour and light hearted angle of the story, as the friend who dabbles in adult entertainment, but his performance is never cheesy and his brand of humour is never forced. Cowen also gets his own subplot with veteran actress Bobbie Phillips from genre shows such as ‘The X-Files’ & ‘The Crow: Stairway To Heaven’, whose appearance is a pleasant surprise. Cumyn herself walks a fine line of light and breezy and intensely dramatic with each turn in the story, as required.
Writer-Director Ramaswaren, along with debutant writer Neal Avram Shneider, creates a compelling story about loss, love and identity; weaving in those themes with characters who are likable and brought to life by an amazing cast, and the journey the movie presents is as heart warming as it is optimistic.
Check out ‘Chasing Valentine’ as it premieres on April 2nd at the 2016 Canadian Film Fest.
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