‘Pretend We’re Kissing’: Love’s No Walk In The Park

Above: Dov Tiefenbach and Tommie-Amber Pirie star in Matt Sadowski's 'Pretend We're Kissing'

Despite our best efforts, we can’t enter each other’s minds.

So, I can’t be sure, but Toronto filmmaker Matt Sadowski’s choices in the writing and directing of his film Pretend We’re Kissing seem to be working out the possibility of doing just this. The award winning film starring Dov Tiefenbach, Tommie-Amber Pirie and Zoe Kravitz leaves nothing up to interpretation.

Pretend We’re Kissing follows a pale fellow named Benny (Tiefenbach) living in Toronto. Too wrapped up in himself to connect with others, Benny’s flailing attempts at beginning a romance with Jordan (Pirie) lead us through the film.

The film’s plot, itself, works hard on the rom-com formula. It’s a genre Sadowski, as he himself says, “wanted to flip on it’s head” while taking in its most recognizable gestures. As the spectator moves through the overt cliches of the film’s writing, we get more and more acquainted with Sadowski’s seeming urge to annihilate subtext. Written after the former Power Rangers actor’s own romantic experiences, it’s almost as if the film is itself a fledgling lover asking its partner to really say what it thinks (or, otherwise, we’re the lover and this film is telling us everything).

The film begins in voice-over, Benny’s anxious inner monologue, and from this point maintains its running record of everything going on inside of Benny’s stress and sinus-headache ridden skull. While the voice-over sometimes works to undercut the subtleties possible in Tiefenbach’s performance, it also immediately punctures the interior of the film’s vision: we are given the truth as Sadowski sees it, uncut.

Another lingering on the notion of absolute clarity of information comes in the film’s continued interest in nudity: in the first scene Benny’s roommate Autumn (Kravitz) sits naked in a chair (reason enough to watch the movie right there).

Throughout the film Benny helps a corner store clerk define English words, codifying them into exact meanings. One of the longest steady shots of the film is of Benny and his love interest’s awkward second time. Covering the whole ritual, even un-sexy sex is not allowed subtext.

Pretend We’re Kissing forms an almost obsessive itemization of Benny’s life and thought, constructing a nervous picture of inner life reminiscent of David Foster Wallace. In its at times embarrassingly real action, though, there is also a pitch towards universalism. As Sadowski says “Anyone can watch the film and get hope if they feel hopeless in love, or watch it and go ‘I thought I was the only one that thought that, I’m happy I’m not alone.’”

The film, more like a hug from a friend, is available now across Canada on iTunes or on Demand on Rogers and Bell. It will be available in the US in October 2015 on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, Sony Entertainment Network, Xbox Live, and Vimeo-on-Demand.  

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