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Photo of Simon Friesen (Kristian Jordan) and Iris DelaCruz (Hera Nalam) in I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight. // Photo courtesy of Bedbugs Films.

I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight is a heartfelt film with winter in Winnipeg as a backdrop

By Karabee Batta, September 23 2020—

The overwhelmingly long mouthful of a title aside, I propose we never see each other again after tonight (IPWNSEOAAT) has its heart in the right place — in the snowy streets of Winnipeg, during peak winter, to be precise.

The movie, which is currently enjoying its second week of a solid theatrical run in Canada, was originally slated for release in early March this year. It was postponed to September 2020, making it one of the first films to hit the theatres as the entire country is trying to get back to a life that bears some resemblance to the old normal.

It is a simple story of boy meets girl, they fall in love, their past catches up and it makes life messier. But, it is told with such authenticity that you cannot help but be engrossed in the tiny universe the characters have managed to build for themselves.

Manitoba Theatre for Young People thespians, Hera Nalam and Kristian Jordan, take on the role of the protagonists Iris Delacruz and Simon Frieson respectively. This film marks their first major foray into a non-theatrical project.

Chirpy Iris meets a reserved Simon after she mistakes him for someone else. They decide to go for a beer and instantly hit it off. The first thing she talks about to this complete stranger is how her family is busy planning a wedding social for her sister and how she doesn’t like her sleazeball — in her words — future brother-in-law, and her family has turned a blind eye to this. In honour of messed up upbringings, Simon tells her how he never felt at ease with his parents in a strict Mennonite upbringing.

They indulge each other’s deep secrets, no-holds-barred after Iris proposes they do not see each other again after that night. But, fate obviously sings to a different tune. The rest of the movie is about them navigating their new relationship, and how they deal with it after each one’s past decides to haunt them at the peak of their romance.

What’s refreshingly beautiful about this movie is that the characters are not dolled up 24 hours of the day under the garb of your “typical” boy/girl next door. Nor do they have the perfect scripted witty responses to all situations. This makes the characters a lot closer and relatable to the audience.

The dialogues in the movie emulate awkward human conversations to which we are all privy, probably because director Sean Garrity likes his actors to keep improvising on a scene and not be bound by the script. Especially in the scenes where Iris, who is a Filipina, is talking to her family. They carry out the conversations in Tagalog, without any subtitles for the viewer. What is said in those conversations is gauged by Iris’ responses which are mostly in English. This is similar to what would actually happen to a non-Tagalog speaker in the Filipino household. Garrity said he gave the actors cues as to what he was expecting from the scene and how he wanted it to pan out, and after that, all the dialogues were improvised by the actors. He continues to say that he as an English speaker would not give himself the liberty to pen down a scene in a language with which he is not familiar.

The actors who play Iris’ parents have worked together on multiple projects in the past and thus their off-screen camaraderie reflects on screen as well.

The relation between Iris and Simon takes time to grow on the audience even though the movie tries to show them having an instant connection. But like both of the actors separately mentioned, they came to know each other in the process of making the movie, taking on a similar tempo as that of their characters. 

Cinematographer Andrew Forbes and director Garrity have done an exceptional job with the colour tone of the mise-en-scéne. The colours start getting brighter when their relationship is in a good space and dismal dingy settings, like a basement parking lot, were used in situations when things start going south.

Garrity pays homage to his roots in Winnipeg by piously juxtaposing the icy city with the warm fuzzy budding romance between Iris and Simon. It was a conscious decision, he says, on his part to have a Filipino and a Mennonite, two communities contributing to a majority of the city’s culture and demographics.

The majority of the film’s cast is Filipino, and Nalam describes it as a very familial environment on set. Perhaps that’s why the scenes with Iris’ family mirror that bond.

This movie very aptly portrays that what Tolstoy said about how every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way is ominously true for lonely individuals. Iris, on one hand, is surrounded by her family yet she longs for companionship. She finds herself inexplicably entangled with fellow loner Simon, who has been physically and emotionally lonely for most of his life.

On the surface, IPWNSEOAAT might seem like another generic rom-com, but it does a commendable job of exploring the fine delicacy of human relationships and of course, putting Winnipeg at the heart of this new-age romance.

Writer’s recommendation: Best enjoyed on a cold night, perhaps with a serving of hot chocolate on the side.

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