Written and directed by Jon Garcia, Love in Dangerous Times is among the first of what is sure to be a plethora of pandemic-themed projects that will emerge over the coming months, and even years. Written and filmed entirely in lockdown, the film follows Jason (Ian Stout), a struggling playwright searching for love in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
As Jason scrolls through potential matches and suffers through awkward video chats with potential love interests, he also deals with the reality of living through an uncertain, chaotic moment in history. Things begin to look up when he meets a charming teacher named Sorrel (Tiffany Groben) who begins to give his life in lockdown new meaning.
Love in Dangerous Times takes place almost entirely in Jason’s apartment, with most of his interactions with other characters happening through his phone or laptop. The effect is a good representation of the pandemic experience, but it makes for a distant and awkward film in terms of tone. Though intended to be a romantic comedy, Love in Dangerous Times struggles to evoke the warmth and charm usually associated with the genre. Garcia deserves a nod for attempting to create a film under very specific, challenging circumstances, however the end result made me long to put on a rom-com from the pre-pandemic days when movie couples did “things”. The on-screen chemistry between Groben and Stout is palpable when they are in the same room, but it takes most of the film’s duration for them to actually get there. In the meantime, their video calls are cold and distant. Neither actor really has the space or opportunity to do much besides deliver stiff and uninteresting dialogue. There is only so much comedy that can really take place in one room, with a person talking to a screen.
Jason struggles with isolation, precarious employment, and anxiety for the wellbeing of his family and friends. In short, the things that pretty much all of us have faced each day for the past several months. On the one hand, it was interesting to see these things presented on screen in such a stark, unflinching way. On the other, however, it makes for a tonally inconsistent film. There are moments when Love in Dangerous Times feels like it is reciting a grim laundry list of pandemic tropes. Going stir crazy from staying inside? Check. Deserted streets and shops? Check. Struggling small businesses? Check. Older relatives who aren’t taking the threat of the virus seriously? Check. Black Lives Matter protests? Check. All that’s missing is Jason and Sorrel going through a Tiger King phase. That isn’t to say that there aren’t moments of humour to be found in Jon Garcia’s movie, but they are few and far between.
Love in Dangerous Times is an interesting experiment. It may be the sort of film that takes on new texture and meaning when one looks back on it from some point in the post-pandemic future as a snapshot of a very unique moment in a very strange time. Here and now though, it misses the mark and ends up feeling bleak and depressing, rather than heartfelt and romantic.
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Shannon Page: @ShannonEvePage