Travis (Matt McGorry), attends his former girlfriend’s wedding. Everyone else is clapping while the couple walks back down the aisle except for him. He’s not happy to be there and he’s showing a bit of salt when the camera gives him some close-ups. He, however, doesn’t fit the archetype of recent romantic leads who are either scoffing fratboys or sad sacks, and actors and performances of this ilk is a welcome change to the genre. McGorry incorporates a masculine, mature stoicism, a mask against a sea of wedding guests. There are a few more complications in Marc Meyers’ How He Fell In Love. During the wedding he meets Ellen (Amy Hargreaves), a yoga instructor. He has a girlfriend, Monica (Britne Olford), she’s married to a man named Henry (Mark Blum), but that won’t stop them.
Meyers observes his characters’ movements as much as we do – he wisely chooses not to idealize them. He also chooses the same method of depiction towards the city where his leads live and fall in love – New York City. If anything, he captures the remnants of what that city was like during the late 20th century. The characters’ homes and office spaces are small and sparingly decorated. Paint is chipping off the walls, wooden cabinets don’t have shiny varnishes. We see graffiti at the background when the two lovers decide to make their first kiss. Despite of the camera’s realism, some editing tricks provide the magic for its audience. The film switches from a boring bed scene with Ellen and Henry to one with Travis, where she seems to be happier.
Travis and Ellen speak in an improvised tone, unusual for a genre that relies on gestural speeches. Both characters drop hints within their conversations to reveal their true selves. Even on their ride from the wedding Ellen lights up when Travis mentions switching things up. He was thinking of his career in music while she was thinking of her marriage. She mentions not liking the idea of walking under scaffolding. His random question about whether she and her husband have children stick with her, and her eyes brighten when she sees her friends’ children. These little things give context to what pull these two people together. These hints also allows the audience to make sense with her unraveling. Looking back, certain words and moments work as triggers that determine how the characters are going to behave.
There’s this distinct understanding between Hargreaves and Meyers on capturing how certain minds go outside functionality. Hargreaves brings out this raw aspect of her character so well. Unfortunately both male characters react in different ways without helping her. And steering the film’s latter half to focus on Ellen and her marriage with Henry is also my biggest reservation against it. Instead of an interweaving diptych I would have liked to see to decide on its protagonist. Yes, I liked the emotional punch that Ellen’s story line brings, especially since it comes out on such an unassuming film. Meyers might have wanted that element to sneak up on his audience yet I still wish we get it sooner.
How He Fell In Love comes out on August 5th in Toronto.