Inside Out 2015: Portrait of a Serial Monogomist
Many of films at this year’s festival revolved around the theme of examining relationships within the LGBT community. What better way to reflect that than to close out the event with what’s sure to become a new Canadian favourite, John Mitchell and Christina Zeidler’s Portrait of a Serial Monogomist. This Toronto-based romantic comedy, set against the city’s Queen West queer community, is a contemporary portrait of life, middle age, commitment, and heartbreak and the difficulties of dating.
Elsie (Diane Flacks) is a woman in her 40s who seems to always be cycling through a new girlfriend. She and her friends have deemed her a serial monogamist, spending as little time as possible being single. When she begins to feel restless in another long-term relationship, she breaks up with her girlfriend Robyn (Carolyn Taylor) in order to pursue the younger woman she has her eye on. This quest to find new love appears to be progressing nicely until a disastrous meeting with Elsie’s family derails the budding relationship. Her friends attempt to guide her with advice but as everything around her begins to unwind and become strained, Elsie starts to realize that perhaps she has thrown away the best relationship she’s ever had.
The film has a light-hearted approach to the subject matter, with Elsie often using sarcastic observational wit to make light of the deteriorating circumstances around her. This becomes her coping mechanisms to try and deal with the fact that everything is changing. As she tries to move forward, the past keeps creeping back in to her life obstructing her future. A forced re-examination of what went wrong is thrust upon her.
The story takes an unusual approach to teach the audience, with our main character Elsie breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly into the camera as our narrator. This isn’t a new concept but the technique works well in this case, as it helps to amplify the smartly written script. It creates a relatable experience for the viewer and a personal connection with our protagonist.
At the heart of the film is the message of needing to be open to the possibility of pain in order to find love. We become afraid of true commitment because we fear the heartbreak that may come with it. The relationship may not work out and it will be hard to deal with but we must move on and work through these difficulties to get to the good parts, which in the end is what makes the journey worthwhile.
While there may be some moments in the film that are somewhat clumsy and unsuccessful, the cast of talented actors and the crew that created this film are an exciting collaborative team. We see that relationship problems are the same no matter what the sexual orientation of the parties involved and that they require hard work and dedication. Something fresh and universal has been produced and is a welcome addition to films showcasing this wonderful city.
The film was recently picked up by Wolfe Releasing for US distribution later this year.
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