Wit and intimacy in quintessentially ‘Winnipeg’ film

Image provided by Bedbugs Films

Sean Garrity’s latest film I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight is an intimate, authentic and humorous exploration of life and love within Winnipeg and its Filipino diaspora.

Described as “[a] romantic comedy about love, and loss, and winter, and banana sauce,” the film follows a love affair between Iris DelaCruz and Simon Friesen in the midst of a Winnipeg winter.

The relationship is disrupted when Simon, afraid of long-term commitment, suggests he and Iris take a break. Interpreting this as any normal person would, Iris sleeps with another man. Soon, Simon invites himself back into Iris’s life. While their rekindled relationship goes smoothly enough initially, things get complicated once Iris realizes her decision was the result of a serious miscommunication.

Garrity’s previous work has garnered comparison to films by David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Luis Buñuel. His latest film, though, has more in common with the work of Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow, being a mostly-successful combination of raunch and heart buoyed by snappy dialogue.

The film’s best moments are its dialogue sequences, which Garrity refers to as the poetry of the half-sentence. Garrity’s script balances wit with intimacy, allowing lead actors Hera Nalam and Kristian Jordan to express their complete range of emotion.

Nalam, who plays Iris, shines alongside her Filipino co-stars, whose contributions to Garrity’s script enliven a series of emotional and humorous highlights.

Incorporating a pidgin of Tagalog and English — referred to by Garrity as “Taglish” — into Iris’s immigrant home, the film subverts the dialogic conventions of family drama and comedy of manners in a respectful showcase of Filipino identity.

While not a technical tour-de-force, Garrity’s confident direction creates an effective synergy of form and content.

Andrew Forbes’s handheld camerawork combines with Garrity’s intentionally clumsy dialogue to create an informal authenticity. Forbes creatively navigates the film’s indoor and outdoor locations, proudly displaying Winnipeg landmarks.

Divorced from its significance as a “Winnipeg” movie, the film does have its flaws.

The film maintains a fairly lighthearted, PG-13 approach to sexuality, which effectively contributes to a quirky, lighthearted tone. A sequence where Simon and Iris passionately disrobe their five layers of winter apparel is particularly humorous.

This tone is disrupted in the film’s final 20 minutes by an explicit sex scene, which is more jarring than emotional.

Further, Iris is afforded character development at the expense of Simon.

Iris’s character development occurs within a meticulously constructed nexus between her family life, romantic affairs and personal growth.

Simon’s family, despite the importance of his family history to the film’s narrative arc, is never introduced. His work life is only explored in a brief comedic vignette and the most important decision he makes in the film is explored entirely in his absence.

This would not be an issue if Garrity presented Iris as the film’s exclusive protagonist. However, he establishes Simon in a co-protagonist role, causing this inequality to stand out.

Still, Garrity’s heartfelt recognition of Winnipeg and its Filipino community helps the film overcome its minor weaknesses. The film should serve as a treat for cinephiles seeking an independent alternative to Christopher Nolan’s opportunistic monopoly on summer movies.

 

I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight is one of the only new films in Winnipeg theatres. It is currently playing at Cineplex Odeon McGillivray Cinemas and Cinema City Northgate.