Two swooning indie romances worth checking out

FEBRUARY 27 ― Since the dawn of filmmaking, romance has always been and still is an essential ingredient in all sorts of genres, from melodrama to comedy and even horror.

Even the legendary Jean-Luc Godard famously said that all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.

A true-blue swooning romance though, is a totally different story, especially in these more cynical times of ours.

Old school legends like Frank Borzage and Douglas Sirk will forever be remembered for their contributions, especially in the field of romantic melodramas that some liked to call “women’s pictures” back in the day.

Films like A Farewell To Arms, All That Heaven Allows, An Affair To Remember, Now Voyager and Brief Encounter, to name a few, can always be relied on to set hearts aflutter and jerk a tear or two from the audience, no matter which generation they may come from.

Trying to look for modern day versions of these earnest, heartfelt and irony-free romances is, of course, not so easy.

Even if your typical Sundance indie flick will almost always involve some sort of romance, it’s usually only the ones in the rom-com category that will often be successful in seducing the audience with their heartfelt earnestness.

The more dramatic ones usually just end up falling way short of the required swoon that must come with these types of films to truly make them successful.

Sometimes though, as the saying goes, these hard-to-find things can be a bit like buses ― you wait ages for one to come along, and then two or three of them arrive at once.

It feels like forever since Drive arrived and made our hearts skip a beat (for various reasons obviously, but for me it’s the heartfelt romance between the driver and the young mom that got me hooked), but along came two relatively new and almost totally unknown/unheralded US indie films that carries the same torch, or at the very least tries to light it.

I’m not saying that these low budget efforts are anywhere near the greatness of Drive, but their hearts are in the right place, and the directors do wonders with the obviously limited resources that they have, producing something honest, earnest and touching enough that I think they deserve a bit more attention and recognition than what they’re having now.

A YouTube screenshot of romantic movie ‘Haymaker’ about a former Muay Thai fighter named Nick who falls into a relationship with a singer named Nomi after she hires him as her bodyguard.
A YouTube screenshot of romantic movie ‘Haymaker’ about a former Muay Thai fighter named Nick who falls into a relationship with a singer named Nomi after she hires him as her bodyguard.

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Haymaker

Just by its intentions alone, I think this film, about a former Muay Thai fighter named Nick (played by debuting writer-director Nick Sasso) who falls into a relationship with a singer named Nomi (played by transgender singer Nomi Ruiz) after she hires him as her bodyguard, deserves everyone’s attention.

You can almost call it a sort of unofficial remake of The Bodyguard, but with a blossoming romance between a cis male and a trans woman, with the super added bonus of the film not even making that romance that big of a deal (in the sense that the film’s drama/conflict does not come from the fact that he’s a cis male and she’s a trans woman).

In fact, there’s practically no transphobia in the film, which is a huge breath of fresh air. Nomi lives a successful, globetrotting lifestyle thanks to her career as a singer and performer, and even her family life is as serene and loving as can be.

Clearly a labour of love for Sasso, he even manages to cast recognizable faces like Zoe Bell, Udo Kier and DB Sweeney in minor roles in the film, which tries its very best to look and feel like a more expensive film than it actually is.

There’s probably a bit too many musical montages in here for my liking, especially considering its fairly short 83-minute runtime, but even with that caveat Haymaker is a lovely, heartfelt and welcomely progressive addition to cinematic history, especially trans cinema.

Flinch

Clearly the better and more accomplished film of the two I’m writing about here, Flinch is also the work of a debuting writer-director, Cameron Van Hoy.

Mixing up the crime and romance genre in his story about a young hitman named Joe Doyle (a fantastic Daniel Zovatto) who faces a moral dilemma and starts falling for Mia (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), an innocent murder witness he kidnapped, there’s clearly a very strong Drive feel to the whole proceedings, accentuated by its superb 80s synth score by Miami Nights 1984.

There are many twists and turns in the story, especially after Joe, against his better judgment, decided to kidnap Mia instead of “taking care of her” (ie. killing her) on the spot.

Doing well in both the crime aspects and in slowly developing the blossoming attraction between Joe and Mia, Flinch is both a thrilling crime picture (complete with very well executed shootouts) and a swooning romance, helped immensely by the effortless chemistry between Zovatto and Cobham-Hervey, both of whom on this evidence are destined for bigger and better things.

If you’re in the mood for love, and neo-noir is something right up your alley, do give this little underdog film a chance and be prepared to be swept off your feet by one of the surprise gems of 2021 so far.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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