TIFF 2022: 'I Like Movies' is a Perfect 'Film Bro' Coming-of-Age Film
by Alex Billington
September 19, 2022
I don't just like movies, I love them! If you also love movies as much as I do, then you're probably familiar with the "film bro" - a nerdy dude who is so entirely infatuated with cinema that's all he can talk about or think about. (Here's two good articles about them: on No Film School or Little White Lies.) Film bros can be found anywhere and everywhere, usually lurking in various dark corners of the internet, waiting to slide into some woman's DMs the moment she mentions David Fincher or Punch Drunk Love. Remarkably, there's a new film at the Toronto Film Festival this year called I Like Movies, and it's an awkward coming-of-age drama about a "film bro" from Canada. It's not denigrating film bros, or turning them into someone to laugh at in a movie, it's actually a remarkably empathetic and warm-hearted film about the challenges of growing up as a nerd and growing into yourself. It just so happens to be about a film bro, and it also just so happens to be one of the gems of this year's TIFF line-up. I loved watching this and I hope it finds a bigger audience.
I Like Movies is written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Chandler Levack, making her feature debut. There's even a joke in the film about how the "film bro" main character, Lawrence, doesn't want to be known as a "Canadian filmmaker" because, c'mon, how many iconic Canadian filmmakers can you name? But that's the joke, because his mom tries to remind him of that one Cronenberg guy. (Not to mention: Jason & Ivan Reitman, Denis Villeneuve, James Cameron, Jean-Marc Vallée, etc.) Lawrence, played by Isaiah Lehtinen, is the epitome of an obsessive film nerd - he can't stop talking about obscure art house films or that Punch Drunk Love is the greatest film of all time, or this filmmaker, or that filmmaker, or whatever it is. In fact, PTA's 2002 film with Adam Sandler is the one most often brought up - it takes place in 2002 as he can't stop talking about it opening in theaters. His best friend tolerates his nerdiness, because he enjoys movies too, but not many others can stand him. He tries to get a job at the local video rental store (mainly so he can get free rentals) and also awkwardly befriends the manager - a woman named Alana played by Romina D'Ugo.
This film really took me back. As soon as it started, I felt like I was at Sundance 2007 all over again. There's an authentic vibe, along with a slightly vintage 2002 aesthetic, that makes the experience of watching this film feel like you're back in that time again. I loved everything about this. Completely. It's a film bro coming of age Canadian indie that perfectly balances the nostalgia and homage and mockery. Featuring profoundly honest filmmaking, but it's also so empathetic and heartfelt and understanding in addition to the brutally honest comedy about this geek and his obsession with cinema. I can appreciate that Lawrence is flawed and doesn't quite get it and is sometimes an asshole but isn't made out to be this character we should hate or anything. He's flawed like all of us, he just loves movies so much he has no idea how to connect with the real world or other people that don't love movies as much as he does. All of this is handled so warmly and so optimistically, as if he will learn to be better as he grows up and we can be happy that he will find his place. I'd totally talk about films with Lawrence anytime, although we'd probably disagree on half of them but still.
Levack totally nails all the nostalgic elements - perfectly capturing what it was like to be a nerdy teenager at this time in the early 2000s, from all the subway sandwiches, to the details in the video store, to watching SNL every weekend with your friends. The bit about "video stores are a growing industry" is hilarious and a nice zinger. I have to say this not to elicit comparisons but to indicate it deserves to stand side-by-side with another geek classic - I Like Movies is as good as Clerks. It's that kind of instantly beloved, film festival debut that connects back to a time long lost growing up with video stores and DVD players. It might be the next generation's Clerks, a superb film that will make you laugh but also remind you there's a bit more to life than just geeking out about everything. Or not? Ultimately it seems the lesson that Lawrence needs to learn is to stop being so obsessed and to work on having real conversations that aren't about movies. There will always be new movies to enjoy, there will always be more film bros to make you roll your eyes & laugh.