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This article was published 27/1/2017 (1408 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If Cinematheque programmers ever wanted to create a truly perverse double bill, they would pair Tyson Caron’s new film Lovesick with Ryan McKenna’s 2013 feature The First Winter, which was about a Portuguese DJ who comes to Winnipeg in midwinter to reach out to the woman he apparently impregnated during her European vacation. 

McKenna’s film, which he dubbed an exercise in "Winnipeg brutalism," only showed the city by night and in the most hideously cold, wind-chilled weather possible.

Supplied</p><p>The neurotic Dash (Jacob Tierney) gives the lovely and witty Nora (Ali Tataryn) a ride on the handlebars of his bicycle in Lovesick.</p>

Supplied

The neurotic Dash (Jacob Tierney) gives the lovely and witty Nora (Ali Tataryn) a ride on the handlebars of his bicycle in Lovesick.

The sheer ugliness of it all was the source of much of the film’s comedy.

It makes a stunning contrast with Lovesick, in which writer-director Caron fashions a romantic comedy wherein Winnipeg never fails to look stunning, as director of photography Jonathon Cliff frames each location shot to make the city look lush, hip and soulful. 

Caron’s purpose is to suggest romance in this geography is entirely possible for its hero, 33-year-old artist/housepainter Dash (Jacob Tierney).

But for all his artistic perceptions, Dash can’t see it.

He is mired in his unhealthy fixation on his ex-girlfriend Lauren (Jessica Paré), even as Lauren has demonstrably moved on, becoming engaged to her successful new beau Mark (Jay Baruchel).

And so Dash’s life continues on an inexorable clockwise swirl. His boss (Rebecca Gibson) at a mural-painting company has to let him go because he has become unreliable, a quality Dash also demonstrates to his landlord.

He sinks low enough in his depression that he finally consults a psychiatrist (Ross McMillan), who is sufficiently frustrated by his patient that he is tempted to break psychotherapy protocol to actually offer him some practical advice.

Supplied</p><p>Tierney's Dash (left) isn't funny or sympathetic enough to bring people onside with his character, but Mark (right) is a welcome departure from the man-child roles of Jay Baruchel's past.</p>

Supplied

Tierney's Dash (left) isn't funny or sympathetic enough to bring people onside with his character, but Mark (right) is a welcome departure from the man-child roles of Jay Baruchel's past.

But real hope appears in the form of a new romantic prospect. Nora (Ali Tataryn) is lovely and witty and not above hitching a ride with Dash on the handles of his bicycle. But she has some baggage of her own, including a penchant for binge-drinking — a possible preview of coming attractions, given her alcoholic mother.

Lovesick is an impressive first feature for Caron. It looks great and Caron works well with actors, with solid turns by locals Gibson, McMillan, Adam Brooks (in the de facto best-friend role) and especially Tataryn, who transcends the rom-com tropes with an ineffable sadness seeping around the edges of the requisite quirk. Baruchel also makes a departure from the man-child roles of his past to offer up a character who is a little douchey, but, as we see in a climactic moment, fundamentally decent.

Tierney’s hero is problematic. Since Woody Allen aged out of it, there has been a vacuum when it comes to neurotic, self-absorbed rom-com heroes we can still enjoy.

(Given his recent history, Allen isn’t likely to win new acolytes. I know my daughter refuses to watch his old movies on principle.)

Tierney’s not up to that task. His Dash isn’t funny enough, or sympathetic enough, to put us onside with behaviour that is — by turns — irresponsible, self-indulgent or just plain stupid.

Still, when it comes to the look of the film, augmented by a sophisticated soundtrack by music producer Matt Schellenberg, there remains a lot here to love.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
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In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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