I Like Movies (2022) follows the trials and tribulations of high school senior Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen) as he prepares for college and navigates his first job at a video store where he forms an unusual relationship with his manager Alana (Romina D’Ugo). The low budget, indie movie status is worn proudly by I Like Movies which manages to evoke the cultural landscape of the early 2000s through subtle gestures and references. For Chandler Levack, the writer and director of the film, I Like Movies was very clearly a passion project; an auto-biographical labor of love.
As somebody who is film obsessive with few friends and had a job at a video store in high school I found I Like Movies almost eerily relatable. While the video store culture of the “Mom & Pop” establishment I found employment at differed greatly from the pseudo-Blockbuster milieu in I Like Movies, many of the tasks and anxieties of that job were the same. I Like Movies, just by being a period piece, certainly taps into that nostalgia but never to such a degree to exploit it with fan service. Levack loves video store culture and physical media as much as any true blue cinephile, she just knows enough to understand that for I Like Movies to work it needs something more substantive than to make former video store clerks like me feel seen.
I Like Movies is a nuanced, well acted, though not entirely original coming of age story that puts character at the forefront of its drama. Isaiah Lehtinen gives a layered and terrible awkward performance that makes him one of the most believable teenaged characters that I have seen in a movie in recent years. Lehtinen sells Kweller’s off-beat behavior without shame or any indication of self-awareness. It’s a performance that is as funny as it is moving. Levack, for her part, is content to let the camera serve this performance, placing the audience squarely in Kweller’s shoes.
Opposite of Lehtinen is another awesome performance; that of Romina D’Ugo. D’Ugo gives the viewer the sense that her character, when not on screen, continues to exist, even beyond the end of the movie. D’Ugo also manages to make the clumsiest written scene (which deals with #metoo themes) emotionally powerful and unique. Almost all of her scenes are with Lehtinen and it is their innate chemistry that gives I Like Movies its momentum.
Unsurprisingly I Like Movies, being a small Canadian feature, hasn’t really found a wider audience in the U.S. I Like Movies seems to have been adopted by American cinephiles as the de facto second feature on a double bill with At The Video Store (2019). That’s great, obviously, but I Like Movies has a broader appeal than just my niche demographic. It would be nice to see a film like this become part of the mainstream discourse.