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Heartland: Love Type D

by on October 8, 2020
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This year’s Heartland Film Festival will be a combination of drive-in and virtual screenings. For a complete schedule and to buy tickets, click here.

Many movies are a slave to formula, particularly in the romcom genre, where sometimes you can time the expected perambulations of the plot down to the minute. So it’s always a pleasure when you encounter a film that dances to its own beat.

“Love Type D” is a British romantic comedy from writer/director Sasha Collington, a first-timer in those roles for a feature film and deserving of more to come.

The overall vibe is a bit “Bridget Jones,” in that our heroine is devalued and doesn’t think too highly of herself, and we root for her to succeed in life and love.

Maeve Dermody plays Francesca aka Frankie, a young woman who could be best described by a newish phrase I recently learned, “basic.” It’s meant as a put-down, usually applied to men — “basic dude” — that essentially means somebody who is thoroughly unimpressive. Think of snooty New Yorkers dismissing somebody because he has a regular job, a regular car and clothes, ordinary looks, etc. That’s Frankie.

Dermody is a ravishing beauty who, in venerable romcom tradition, is dressed and made up to look plain. She stoops her shoulders and screws up her mouth so it almost seems like Frankie is trying to tuck inside herself. She works as a drone in an office that produces instructions, but Frankie doesn’t seem to have any roadmap to her own life.

As the story opens she has just been dumped by her boyfriend, Thomas (Oliver Farnsworth), who she really felt was “the one.” Worst of all, he didn’t even do it in person but sent his 11-year-old brother, Wilbur (an excellent Rory Stroud), to do the deed for him. It turns out this is the 11th time Frankie has been dumped.

We think Wilbur is just going to be a one-off quirk of a character, but he quickly becomes essential to the story. Turns out he’s a science genius — he even has his own silent minion, Barnaby — and tells Frankie about the “D gene.” This causes a certain subset of people to be losers in love that the other folks break up with — always the dump-ee, never the dump-er.

Things go from there in a series of sitcom-y contretemps as Frankie tries to figure out if she actually has this D gene, then identifying some colleagues at work who suffer the same fate. Elin Phillips plays one, Debra, who rocks a Scottish brogue and an indefatigable attitude. She’s a classic romcom wingwoman who needed more scenes to flesh her out.

Frankie and Wilbur — she calls him “Thomas’ brother” until he finally insists on using his given name — form a sort of partnership to find a way to overcome the D gene curse. This leads to a complex plan in which she must dump all the men who dumped her in order to cure herself of the malady. She has an early unexpected success with her 12-year-old boyfriend who has the unfortunate hurdle of being dead.

Thomas proves an even tougher nut to crack, since he’s already moved on with a gorgeous astronaut named Ceceilia (Alexandra Evans) and even takes out a restraining order against Frankie.

There’s a lot to like about “Love Type D.” The movie mostly zigged when I thought it would zag, taking a seemingly obvious set-up and then doing unexpected things with it.

For example, the dump-ees at the office come up with a plan to gather many of their exes in one place by pretending they’ve all won a lot of money, then breaking up with them en masse. In most movies this would occupy the entire last act, but this film intentionally misplaces the subplot — and then cleverly remembers that it forgot it.

It’s clear the movie was shot on a shoestring — finished with a Kickstarter campaign — and it has a few technical shortcomings, mostly in an inconsistent sound mix. For example, two people will be standing next to each other talking but the other’s voiceover sounds like they’re 10 feet away and underwater.

Quibbles aside, I found myself quite taken with this smart and lovely comedy that understands there are no shortcuts in romance.

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