Portrait of a Serial Monogamist @ Image + Nation 28

Love and relationships are the subjects most examined in films. Love in all its forms has inspired directors and screenwriters since the first images were projected onto a screen. It has only been in the last few decades that the LGBT community has had the opportunity to construct their own stories. Directors/screenwriters John Mitchell and Christina Zeidler had added their story to the mix.

Monogamy is when a person moves from one relationship to another. Thirty-something Elsie Neufeld (Diane Flacks – Take This Waltz, Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy) is a serial monogamist as she has never been alone her whole adult life. She has even developed her own rules about ending relationships. They are to never use the words “break up”, never do it in public, make an effort, there is no need for it to be unpleasant, and after you have made your decision never look back.

portrait of a serial monogamist2It is with these rules in mind that Elsie undertakes breaking up with her girlfriend of five years, Robyn (Carolyn Taylor – from television’s Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye). The break-up comes as a complete shock to Robyn though it really shouldn’t be as Elsie is a love them and leave them kind of gal. Her life is littered with exes. The only thought on Elsie’s mind now is how long after you break up do you have to remain single? She doesn’t know how to exist in the world without being part of a couple. Her friend Grace (Caroline Gillis – Pay the Ghost, Wild Iris) bets Elsie that she cannot remain single for five months.

The bet seems all but loss when she meets Lolli (Vanessa Dunn – first film), part-time coffee barista, blogger and nightclub dj, a woman who has just broken up with her boyfriend. Elsie and Lolli get off to a halting stop, but once they start spending time together something begins between the two. Yet Elsie keeps thinking back to moments in her relationship with Robyn. Robyn has started dating Jadyn (Kaleb Robertson – first film), but it does not work out and she decides to return to Halifax. Elsie has a decision to make.

The film poses the question of how to recognize what love is and how to keep it going. The director/screenwriter duo of Mitchell and Zeidler has tried to make a smart and witty film with plenty of tongue in cheek moments about love and the lesbian community. There is even a scene that involves a cat memorial service. It is a rather clever and fresh look at relationships.

At times though it is all a little too clever and too Canadian for me. Canadian in that it has that look and pace about it. Going for realism and relying too little on cinematography (probably due to a lack of funds) makes it all seem a little cheaply done. This is often something Canadian made films have to contend with, so it almost seems unfair to hold it against them.

What it does have going for it is the charismatic performance by lead actress Diane Flacks. This despite the fact that after a while her character’s ways become less than attractive. At the beginning of the film Elsie and her ideas of relationships seem fun, odd, but fun. As the film moves on her behaviour begins to wear on you. What was once quirky becomes irksome. You end up wanting to slap Elsie to snap her out of it. Maybe that feeling is because we all know someone like Elsie. Because the film really has tapped into a real phenomenon. Portraying a reality within the lesbian community and demonstrating that no matter your sexuality finding and keeping love is a struggle.

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