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SBIFF Closing Night: Chandler Levack's, I Like Movies

21 February 2023
  • Written by
    Maryanne Knight
  • Photographed by
    Steve Kennedy
Romina D'Ugo at SBIFF 2023
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The 2023 Santa Barbara International Film Festival closed with a full house at the Arlington Theatre for the world premiere of Chandler Levack’s film, I Like Movies. This coming of age film set in the early 2000s follows high school senior and cinephile Lawrence Kweller (played by Isaiah Lehtinen) as he reconciles his dream future with the reality of his actual life. When we first meet Lawrence, he is arrogant and ostentatious, treating those who care for him as props and placeholders without any regard to their feelings. He plans to attend NYU’s Tisch School of Arts as step one in becoming a famous director and doesn’t feel the need to apply to other schools, certainly not any Canadian schools, where he\'s convinced he\'ll be saddled with the stigma of being known as a Canadian director. To earn money for tuition, he takes a job at a store in the fictional Sequel Video chain, where jokes about late fees (remember those?) and career opportunities in the video-rental industry were strictly for the audience only.

It’s not clear in the movie why store Manager Alana (Romina D’Ugo) takes a friendly interest in the protagonist, but she does, helping him in his shift from total self-absorption toward empathy. The audience gradually learns of the traumas lurking in the past for both characters, the house silent while Alana shares her story with Lawrence. If you like quiet indie films with quirky characters and a heavy dose of nostalgia for times past, this film will leave you feeling satisfied, cheering on the characters as they move beyond Sequel Video to pursue their dreams. 

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival photo from State Street