By Jim Slotek
If nothing else, the entropic young-people-not-in-love romance Acquainted has a break-up line that should supplant, “It’s not you, it’s me,” and “I still love you, I’m just not IN love with you anymore.”
When one of two long-standing couples have “that talk,” the person pulling the plug says, “We became adults together. But those adults don’t owe those children anything.”
Jaw. Dropped. That’s a keeper. And if you’re ever in a position to sever a college romance that’s gone on years too long after graduation, you could do worse than to drop that verbal bomb.
Set in Toronto with a name-that-neighbourhood audacity (“Let’s meet at the Brickworks” – “Do you still live on St. Clair?”), the movie by former Degrassi: The Next Generation actor Natty Zavitz starts with a bomb whose fuse ignites two relationships simultaneously.
At a bar with a gender-free washroom (hey, I know that place!) Drew (Grey’s Anatomy’s Giacomo Gianniotti), a copywriter, meets Emma (Laysla De Oliveira), a florist and editor. Turns out they went to the same high school, but only vaguely knew each other. And they immediately become flirty in front of each other’s eye-rolling friends.
The problem: Both Emma and Drew are in longstanding relationships. As often happens with the young, “longstanding” is a synonym for struggling. Fortuitously or not (this is a movie full of questionable decisions), both relationships are indeed struggling.
Emma’s situation is more practical. She has an opportunity in Montreal, and her guy Alex (Raymond Ablack, yet another Degrassi grad), a potter and ceramic artist, has a once-in-a-lifetime offer to practice his art in Japan. In the days before Facetime, this would indeed be a relationship death sentence. As it is, it is a possible mortal wound.
And Drew? His relationship problem is more inchoate. He’s kind of bored with Claire (Rachel Skarsten, Elizabeth Tudor in the drama series Reign). Compounding this is the fact that they just bought a house together, the strongest connective tissue you could have in a pricey market like Toronto, short of actually getting married.
If it sounds like Drew is the more callous of the two culprits in this emotional mess, well he is. When she clearly begins to fall in love with Drew, Emma at least goes through the motions of feeling guilty for betraying Alex. For his part, Alex continues to go through cold exchanges with Claire, and pushing forward with Emma.
But the fact is, they’re both culpable. I’m not one to insist that characters in a movie be likeable, but watching one relationship incinerate two others is uncomfortable for any one with any empathy at all. Marquess of Queensbury rules (I’m making this part up) say if your relationship is not working, the right thing to do is break it off BEFORE you start up with someone else.
That all said, Zavitz’s situations and dialogue ring true, and he seems to understand the destructive power being “in love” (as opposed to just “love”) can exert on people’s better judgment.
Whatever, I’m pretty sure this isn’t an ideal date movie.
Acquainted is a movie full of awkward situations, and if you’re hoping these situations ever tie together neatly, think again.
Acquainted. Written and directed by Natty Zavitz. Starring Giacomo Gianniotti, Laysia De Oliveira and Rachel Skarsten. Opens Friday, April 5 in Toronto and Vancouver.