Writer/director Natty Zavitz’ distinctly Canadian romantic drama Acquainted is a small, simple, contained film in the best possible way. It doesn’t rely on visual effects or spectacle to make it interesting (nor should it), but rather tells a straightforward love story in a very realistic fashion, with all of the trappings of the human condition and the contradictions that go along with it.
Drew (Giacomo Gianniotti) and Emma (Laysla De Oliveira) are old high school acquaintances who reconnect one night at a bar in Toronto. The attraction is palpable and immediate. The twist? Neither of them are single. What follows is a series of definitely-not-dates wherein the two try desperately to convince themselves that they’re just friends.
A movie like this lives or dies on the chemistry of its leads. Fortunately, these two are pretty well perfect together. While most of the audience would probably agree that cheating on your significant other is decidedly not cool, we still want to see Emma and Drew end up together because they just click so well. Honestly, if you were to tell me that Gianniotti and De Oliveira were a couple in real life, I’d believe you without bothering to look it up.
Rounding out the cast are Rachel Skarsten as Drew’s girlfriend Claire (who gives the film’s standout performance in an emotionally raw, engaging, and somehow sweetly funny scene), and Raymond Ablack, as Emma’s boyfriend Alex, who brings some laughs and is very likeable.
The biggest star of the film is its dialogue. It doesn’t sound like something you’d hear in a Hollywood romance, and that’s precisely why it works so well. The conversations come across as unflinchingly honest and very authentic; the way real people talk and joke and flirt.
The ending of the film is not terribly satisfying, yet it is sincere and firmly planted in reality, so it works in that context. The screenplay is mature, and really reflects the complexities of adult relationships, and that’s a score.