I Like Movies review — Video store comedy shines

Written and Directed by Chandler Levack | 99 min | ▲▲▲▲△ | Carbon Arc Cinema

Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen) is the one who likes movies. I mean, he *really* likes movies.

He’s a teenager in Burlington, Ontario in the early 2000s who dreams of leaving the alienation of  those endless parking lots and suburban bungalows to find glory in film school in New York. He’s being raised by a single mother (Krista Bridges), and in order to afford those dreams he takes a job working at the local video rental store, Sequels, under the cautious eye of the owner and manager, Alana (Romina D’Ugo). This while actively alienating his best friend, Matt (Newfoundland’s Percy Hynes White, suddenly and unaccountably tall).

I’m gonna say from the jump I found it really hard to warm up to Lawrence, but that’s clearly the point. Even the film’s marketing language calls him a pretentious asshole. He’s truly awful, but full marks to Lehtinen for making his unearned self-righteousness so entirely plausible. How many cinesnobs have I known like Lawrence?

Have I been one of them?

I’ll admit my visceral reaction to him could have everything to do with my personal history as a pretentious asshole and former Blockbuster Video employee. (I got fired because I wouldn’t cut my, at the time, shoulder-length hair. It may have also had something to do with not wanting to think of movies like widgets.)

I Like Movies impresses with its deeply observant script and well-drawn characters. It’s not so much nostalgic for its setting, time and place, but more clear-eyed about the challenges of life for the people living there. There’s a definite tonal shift between the first act, a raucous turn-of-the-millennia teen comedy, and what follows, dramatic scenes tackling the aftermath of suicide and assault.

While I’m not sure it’s entirely successful balancing these disparate elements, I laughed a lot throughout and cared for all the characters onscreen. And, yes, that includes Lawrence, who I eventually warmed up to. Levack’s confidence as a storyteller bleeds through in her writing — there’s no doubt doubt the film is a strong debut from a filmmaker bound to be a prominent voice in Canadian cinema.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.