Sasha Collington’s feature debut, in the spirit of some of the classic high-concept comedies, deals with both light and heavy aspects of being unlucky in love. The scale is loaded in favour of the lighter parts, and an amiable lead pair with charming characterisation keeps the engagement levels high and the irk levels non-existent.
As the film begins, Frankie (Maeve Dermody) is dumped by her boyfriend Thomas (Oliver Farnworth), although not in person. His much younger brother, Wilbur (Rory Stroud), is sent in his stead to do the deed. After becoming aware scientists have posited a ‘dumpee’ gene, the combination of these two sends Frankie on a journey. She must revisit all twelve of her former romances in an attempt to ‘deactivate’ the gene, as per the hypothesis of young Wilbur.
The film takes inspiration from other high-concept comedies and weaves in the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate, examined through the lens of romantic relationships. The gene discovered in the film gives validation to those who don’t feel in control of their destiny, who “want to be in the other category of people”: the successful and the desirable.
Even in a light comedy, Collington does a good job capturing some modern rhythms of this age-old anxiety. Frankie compares herself to the new, seemingly impossibly accomplished, astronaut partner of Thomas on social media. The test to determine if she is a carrier of the gene is expensive, prompting her to fake being a journalist (instead of her nondescript job ‘in instruction manuals’) to obtain one. A viral video of her first teenage boyfriend dumping her brings in the idea that, in the digital age, our failures and humiliations follow us for life. On a visual level, she also displays her understanding of comedic framing: Frankie’s workmates eagerly leaning forward in the background, as she tries to obtain genetic tests for them over the phone, heightens the comedy in what could have been a rather mundane segue.
The script – also from Collington – is comedic but without being one-note and uses a few different types of humour. There is the precociousness of Wilbur, a child who will deliver a brand of naive wisdom as crisp as his short trousers, as well as the smartly-written and self-important obliviousness of Frankie’s teenage boyfriend Oliver. The pivot point for all of this is Dermody’s Frankie, treading a fine line between needy and endearing. Her likeable presence means we retain sympathy and empathy with Frankie even as she starts to self-sabotage.
The film presents a nice spin on the typical win-him-back trope in romantic comedies. In needing to retrace her romantic steps, Frankie’s quest is presented as one of self-improvement, crucially driven by her, and her alone, from the outset. The comedic tone and high concept keep the film from being a pity-fest or going to deep on loftier ideas of destiny and self-determination, even if both of those provide a bit of weight to underscore the plot.
LOVE TYPE D has a very familiar look and feel, but the gene pool of this comedy is wide enough – Collington’s script and shotmaking, the actors comic timing and chemistry, the smart concept – to result in the DNA of a healthy success of a film.