Director/writer Julian Kemp (based on the novel Essays in Love by Alain de Botton) has totally embraced the notion that life is a merry-go-round and created a quick-paced, whimsical examination of the timeless quest for finding true love.
Fire exit designer (the metaphors overflow in every nuance of the narrative—Guppy the Elephant offering pre-coital advice is a hoot) Duncan (engagingly portrayed by Brendan Patrick) contemplates a booze-pill suicide after striking romantic gold with five women only to have none of them pan out.
Duncan’s World becomes the set-piece amusement park where each ride takes the protagonist closer to relationship rapture. The price of admission for these adventures of coupling is the requisite broken (or in the case of date no. 4, stolen) heart. As is common in real life, everyone observing the attempts for finding bliss has an opinion about the current state of affairs and doesn’t hesitate to share them. Much of the film’s fun comes via the interjections of fellow fair goers, deftly inserted archival clips (the love-at-first-examination from Noel Coward’s Tonight at 8:30—“Still Life”—is a spot-on echo from the past) and a variety of camera techniques (even including pic-in-pic). Kemp’s vast experience in television is clearly evident from first frame to the encore credit reel.
The music (original score from Andy Blythe and Marten Joustra) also plays a significant role in this production’s success. From Star Wars brass for the purloined sock caper, through the wonderfully cheesy chart accompanying the “Successful Sulk” sequence, the wide variety and savvy suitability of the charts rates a star on its own. Only the brief (thankfully) excerpt from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 fails to impress (both visually and aurally).
Of the five belles, Geema (Naomie Harris is perfectly alluring, saving the best for last as her cheating ways become too much to bare) gets the most screen time. The first four all serve their purpose (Cécil Cassel’s take on the designer-boot loving Rhona works well; Edith Bukovics’ Natalie slips in and out of the dating line up with the greatest of ease), but are really overshadowed by their competition (the non-dramatic components of the production—not the other contestants) and Patrick’s effective narration.
To add further twists, turns and takeaways, co-worker and best friend Will (Daniel Hoffman-Gill) enters the picture in the late innings, providing the coup de grâce then impetus for Duncan’s decision to pen (hilariously the ink magically starts and stops with the music—another subtle touch) his worldly adieu to the quintet of bed-mates/heart-wreckers.
Like a tasty, refreshing sherbet between the daily grind of work, life and external calamities, Duncan’s journey to the centre of his soul is a most welcome addition to the romantic comedy genre. JWR