By Hemanth Kissoon
Romances, like the sports movie, really seem to have only a few possible outcomes –the couple get together or they don’t. The enjoyment that filmmakers seem to perceive for audiences is not one of them guessing the result, but more relishing the twists and turns to inevitability. If you’re like me, the most satisfying film experiences are the ones that are unpredictable and original, that do not pander to the lowest common denominator or aim to please everyone. The best modern romances are arguably the duo from Richard Linklater (BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET), CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, AMELIE, CHASING AMY and (the under-rated) THE BREAK-UP.
Kudos for IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS comes from the fact that it follows BEFORE SUNRISE in making a tight, non-formulaic ode to finding happiness with someone.
In a burst of brutal honesty during early New Year’s Eve, Wilson (Scoot McNairy) writes an email to an old flame revealing his loneliness and his frustration at not making it in Hollywood as a writer, and how to hear her voice would make all the difference. Instead of sending such a heartfelt, open missive he deletes it and sends a faux-happy one saying how successful he is. Wilson has not hit rock bottom, but seems near enough. His flatmates, a loved-up couple, try to get him out of his funk by registering him with an online singles website so that he’ll have date for that evening’s bash and hopefully a kiss to see in the New Year. One woman answers, Vivian (Sara Simmonds), and agrees to meet. If Vivian likes the look of Wilson on first encounter she will talk to him, and if he impresses her enough by late afternoon she will be his date for the evening. We follow them around Los Angeles as they get to know each other, in a frank, event-fuelled date that seems to have both little in consequence in the scheme of things, but oddly so much too.
While not as polished or as winning as its closest filmic sibling (BEFORE SUNRISE), it gives food for thought in a genre so often bereft of any such morsels; as well as refreshingly peopled with the flawed (rather than the perfect), and containing burgeoning charm and pathos that left this cinephile sated.