In Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies, movies are a way of life; your relationship with them often reveals your very inner workings. For antisocial high school senior Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen), movies are the be-all and end-all. They are to be consumed in massive and desperate amounts under the belief that, if you suck in enough of them, you can force your dreams of directorial greatness to immediate fruition (even if, in reality, Lawrence’s DIY films are often choppily made, parody-based, and bordering on cringeworthy).
Every movie Lawrence sees is his new favorite movie. He is prepared to talk about every scene of Punch Drunk Love immediately after seeing it and has a hard time reading cues as his buddy tries to drown him out with the radio. Movies are a buoy to him: Lawrence, susceptible to meltdowns, can only be soothed by his mother when she asks him to describe the ocean in Cast Away.
For Lawrence’s best friend, Matt Macarchuk (Percy Hynes White), movies are one option in a handful of unserious things to do to kill time in the suburb of Burlington, Ontario. Saturdays are for watching SNL and daydreaming about hosting it one day. A copy of the erotic thriller Wild Things is to be perennially unreturned to the video store, late fees racking up, because it’s your favorite thing to jerk off to. If you get closer to the pretty girl in class because of the movies you both like, that’s a bonus.
For Alana (Romina D’Ugo), Lawrence’s boss at Sequels Video Store (his first ever job), “the movies” or “the industry” — that abstract place that appears glamorous but is actually just work — is a place of old trauma, a life-ruiner. Alana works at the video store because she has to, and holds a secret hatred for the art form as a whole for what it did to her when she tried her hand at it.
Set in 2003, I Like Movies sees films as not just a clickable, half-hearted, mass-produced background noise on your various devices but as tangible pieces of art, something you must go to a store to access, to touch, to hold in your hands. You have to care (even if it’s just a little) to commit to a film. The DVD a bickering couple halfheartedly grabs for a disinterested movie night could be the same film a burgeoning cinephile cradles in his hands with love — it could be the film to change his life for the third time that week.
I Like Movies is, in itself, a testament to the movie magic it understands so well. That a story about a kid loving movies in the barren expanse of a Burlington Cineplex, a bland little video store, and on his crummy pull-out couch feels so good to live in for an hour and a half is what makes me love movies. I walk to meet my brother for lunch after watching I Like Movies; I sit down and immediately insist upon telling him all about it. As I spew to him, I use other movies to bolster my recommendation: it feels like Rushmore for teen cinephiles, it has the confidence in voice of Juno. I go on and on. I am aware that, as I do this, I am essentially Lawrence, but I’m too excited about what I’ve just seen to care.