Directed By: #MikeGallant
Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Chris (Chapman), a young man still hopelessly in love with his ex-girlfriend Brooklyn (Hughes-Jones), agrees to accept her invitation of an all-inclusive getaway to Cancun to celebrate New Year’s with her and her parents. But Brooklyn is no longer the girl he once knew and as she runs away from her demons down a path of self-destruction, Chris finds himself having to pick up the pieces and after meeting a local girl, has to decide what it is he wants his life to be.
The Duchess of Cancun is a film that first and foremost, manages to maintain a fantastic aesthetic all the way through. Aside from the fact that it has the stunning Cancun as a backdrop to begin with, each scene seems to pop with brilliant colouring, from the sun-drenched hotel exteriors to the clever contrast of the darkened yet still vivid Mexican night scene, always emphasising the right levels of drama or emotion (or both) where needed.
In terms of the cast, before even beginning to discuss the merits of our two leads, special mention must be made above all else to a terrific turn by the brilliant Stephanie Tolev as Chris’ sister who’s total screen presence in minutes could perhaps be counted on just one hand but nonetheless absolutely steals the show, with a kind of wit and humour that’s just a given to the naturally funny. Of course, this is not her story and her limited screen time is understandable, but it is still a shame we don’t get to see more of her. Sherlyn is also pleasing to watch as local girl Ava who is the catalyst for Chris’ internal conflict, however the other main players Affleck and Denkers as Brooklyn’s parents are less effective, with Affleck especially being nothing more than an overly aggressive and brutish template of a man we’ve seen countless times before.
Thankfully though, there is joy in watching our two stars play out this very unorthodox love story. We do absolutely get the sense that these two know each other inside and out, and the chemistry between Chapman and Hughes-Jones is at times electric. They also manage to bolster the interesting sensation that we’re never quite sure whether we should be rooting for them or not, a feeling the film seems to want to provoke throughout wherever it can. One might find themselves rolling their eyes at their ignorance, especially towards Chris who is often just too damn nice for his own good, but as soon as things are then on the up you can’t help but hope for their future, even though you know we shouldn’t.
The writing can be quite smart quite often, mainly in the dialogue between Chris and Brooklyn which gives a real authenticity to their relationship. Certain lines or attempts at humour don’t land, and others fall hard, not to mention there are a few moments of awkward dead space. Also, the film could easily stand to lose at least twenty minutes if not a touch more of its runtime as it seems to re-visit previous story beats. But the film does get its integral emotional moments right on the money every time which gives the film its heart, not to mention delivering on its well-earned ending.
Although it could do with some trimming, The Duchess of Cancun boldly sets itself out to be different and what we get is an enjoyable drama that weaves a unique yet on many levels still relatable story of love and anguish.
Watch the trailer here: