It was an experiment that paid off handsomely.
My first Milwaukee Film Fest screening this year was a Friday date with I Like Movies and our little family of three. This includes a pre-teen who’s begun to fancy himself a film nerd – thanks more to exposure to movie lists and such on TikTok and Insta rather than seeing, you know, actual films. We talked about the difference between movies and films on the ride to the Oriental – that this might be a little less entertaining and a little more challenging, thought-provoking, than the latest MCU installment.
It was preparation that turned out to be not at all necessary.
Friday’s showing was the delightful I Like Movies, which centers Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen), a socially awkward but gregarious high school senior in early 2000s suburban Toronto who is not great at life so far but lives for movies.
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Writer-director Chandler Levack’s film vividly and authentically portrays high school friendships, the uncertainty of that senior year and the sometimes maddening, sometimes euphoric but always tiny world of a dead-end teenage job.
That could all just be movie fodder, though, but I Like Movies shows film chops in dealing with heavy issues like suicide and sexual assault deftly and sensitively. Here, Levack doesn’t attempt to say too much, letting the strong performances from Lehtinen and Romina D’Ugo, who plays Lawrence’s grown-up boss at the video store where he gets a job, do the heavy lifting.
It’s also worth shouting out the films within this film, too – the delightfully goofy opening short Lawrence and a friend made for a class project and a swelling, poignant “year in review” video project. (I cried, though my bar is low for that with movies.)
I Like Movies is shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio that, to folks who grew up before widescreen TVs became the default, is an unmistakable throwback. It required some explanation to our budding young cinephile, but I imagine he’ll be soon deciding whether to shoot his own takes in 16:9 or 4:3.
I Like Movies plays again at 9:30 p.m. May 2 at the Oriental Theatre.