It feels natural to be immediately charmed by Blake (Jessica Barden), the journalism student proclaiming that “romance is dead” in her college’s newspaper at the beginning of the The New Romantic. The line is enough to have the viewer both rolling their eyes and pretending like they aren’t already empathizing with the anxious and hilarious flurry of Blake’s disdain for Tinder and desire for an experience of “true love”. Her bike-riding, Nora Ephron-loving keenness should feel overplayed in the romantic comedy genre where quirkiness reigns, yet The New Romantic (2018) is never so easily pinned down as pure romantic comedy. Blake envisions and experience of true love and wedding bells while high on MDMA, and the archetypal figure of the manic pixie dream girl is paraded across the screen as a Halloween costume, effectively dispelling any idea that Blake could ever be mistaken for such a thing.
The directorial debut of Canadian filmmaker Carly Stone features many familiar faces of the “teen drama” world, with Jessica Barden portraying another wonderfully clever and likeable character equal to her role as Alyssa in The End of the F*cking World. Similarly, the appearances of Riverdale’s Camila Mendes (Morgan) and Hayley Law (Nikki) were pleasant surprises. Their performances are full of genuine compassionate and sharp wit. The New Romantic aims at what feels sometimes entirely unachievable in the romantic comedy genre: something realistic.
The New Romantic does not pretend to entirely fit into the category of romantic comedy, weaving through the intricacies of Blake’s life as an undergrad struggling to pay off loans and write a hard-hitting article on her experimental experience as a “sugar baby”. And while the film does not shy away from the difficulties Blake faces with this title, questioning her own decisions and the impact it may have on her reputation, ultimately, The New Romantic offers up a few important moments of this dialogue on complications and misconceptions. At its core, what this film does best is remain experimental, diving head first into both comedy and drama, and taking a chance on something new; it is a perfect mirror of its protagonist.