Happy New Year, dear Romania Insiders! Let's start it with something light and easy, for this is the best way to start a new year, film-wise and otherwise.
There's a brand new Romanian comedy running in cinemas across the country (check the venues and screening times here), the sequel Alt Love Building/Another Love Building. The first Love Building was one of the nicest surprises of 2013, a well-made commercial comedy produced by a team which seemed to have a great deal of fun making it.
It featured fourteen couples with relationship problems who sign up for a weekend workshop to deal with these issues and re-kindle the spark. Led by three not-that-wise-in-their-personal-lives therapists, the workshop takes some surprising turns. The jokes rolled well, the timing was fine, the constellations were contemporary and diverse (there are straight and gay couples, young and older), the tone was kind. The most remarkable thing about the feature was that it was the joint effort of a talented young group of writing, directing, producing and acting friends who financed it themselves, and that is why the actors were mostly amateurs, part of an acting school led by the three lead actors, who are solid professionals (Dragoș Bucur, Alexandru Papadopol and Dorian Boguță).
Ironically, this was also the film's biggest problem (if you don't count predictability and the usual rom-com clichés since they are normal for the genre): the acting was a mixed bag, to put it lightly.
And as much as I liked the first film and was happy about the likeable main acting trio being back, Another Love Building falls into the trap of most sequels: it's less funny and too long. The set-up is almost the same and the actors are also mostly non-professionals. Picking up from where we left the protagonists after the previous camp, this time it's nine couples trying to solve their problems, some of them returning to the workshop a second time, and it's the same therapists who do their best to guide them while making a mess in their own private (love) affairs.
The characters are less lovable this time, ranging from an arrogant pop star, some downright silly couples, a politician who looks more like he's landed in this film from a bad action movie, to one half of a lesbian couple who is by far the most annoying person in the room. The jokes are often flat, some actors are, once again, really bad, and the couples' adventures in self-knowledge don't justify a two hours' running time. The film is fine to watch, there are some insightful moments and a few good jokes but all in all this is a modest movie which would have benefited from a boost of energy, a more disciplined direction, and some serious script re-writings.
I would still recommend it for a nice evening on the town or a seasonal amusement: after the agitation of New Year's parties and the following post-partying during the weekend, there is nothing better than a light dramedy to end the day.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, email@example.com