Chasing Valentine does a good job justifying its potential targets for criticism.
Navin Ramaswaran’s movie is melodramatic, but a case is made for these high emotions because of the film’s primary theme of being let down by love. The movie’s quirky traits could irritate some (it sure did for Shahbaz Khayambashi at 2016’s Canadian Film Fest), but these instances are significant memories in the relationships that make up this hipster romance. They may be random to jaded movie goers, but they hold meaning for these characters. I can believe key factors that help support the movie’s narrative, but I still felt Chasing Valentine to be inauthentic.
Chasing Valentine has a swift pace that is an injustice to the dynamics on-screen. A pivotal break-up and an off-screen death are, unfortunately, summarized within the first act. It’s too bad because both events star actor Jen Pogue (The Masked Saint), who has an immediate magnetic energy. By shortcutting through these events, our grieving main character Chase (Adam Langton) doesn’t have much characterization to build off of other than vague sadness. The stranger Chase meets later, a pseudo-dominatrix named Valentine (Gwenlyn Cumyn) has a different scorn for intimacy, but can relate to Chase as well. Together, they find more common ground and allow themselves to let their guards down.
Langton and Cumyn have friendly chemistry, but their characters lack a unique perspective. This “cynic-turned-romantic” arc is old hat, but filmmakers have been able to elevate this formula before with interesting perspectives on relationships, sex, gender, you name it (see: I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight). The problem Chasing Valentine doesn’t escape is its lack of an opinion towards love or romance. To make up for this missing quality, Ramaswaran tries to create a special cinematic identity for the movie by toggling different genres throughout the film. It’s okay for a movie to bleed over into another genre, but I couldn’t take Chasing Valentine’s mixtures seriously. I could accept its combo of a bromance and a cynical rom-com, but the integration of a violent mob movie with schmaltzy romance was too much of an extreme mixture. Especially since the crooks resemble silly henchmen from a spy movie.
Chasing Valentine still functions at a basic level for viewers looking for a dependable romance set in Toronto. But knowing the quality of work Navin Ramaswaran has turned in before (One More for the Road, Pete Winning and the Pirates, and especially Poor Agnes), Chasing Valentine is derivative in comparison.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie