Updated: Jun 14
Written & Directed by #AlexMagaña
What Love Looks Like is the fourth feature from writer-producer-director (as well as cinematographer and editor) Alex Magaña. Taking its cue from the online dating phenomenon, Magaña’s film follows the interwoven stories of five couples as they navigate their way through the high and lows of finding romance.
Kate (Kate Durocher) is already in a relationship with phubbing-addicted Josh (Josh Gilmer) but hits it off with charming Uber driver Jace (Trevor Sean). Elsewhere, Calvin rudely bolts after a one-night stand with disappointed Summer (Jamie Shelnitz) whilst a chance meeting leads painfully shy Theodore (Jack Menzies) to finally approach his crush Bailey (Ana Ming Bostwick-Singer). Widowed Sam (Nathan Kohnen) begins to find a new spark with Evie (Ashley Rose McKenna) whilst, last but not least, likeable Finn (Kyle Meck) whisks girl-of-his-dreams Penelope (Taylor Alexa Frank) off on a night-time city tour.
Inevitably, just as with its love-seeking couples, What Love Looks Like is a hit-and-miss affair. Emerging out of a troubled time, Magaña’s film is refreshingly good-hearted and innocent. It would take a hardened viewer to not make a connection with at least one of the awkward moments along the way. However, the characters, and the actors’ performances, are a decidedly mixed-bag; some are competent thespians, others are unfortunately not as accompolished. Some moments also strain credibility; Kate jumps in a car with stranger Jace in a matter of seconds, whilst a disinterested Penelope responds to Finn’s awkward advances by walking off hand-in-hand with him. It’s hardly convincing character motivation.
Other choices are more successful. Shelnitz delivers one of the film’s more natural performances, whilst Gabriella Wisdom is moving in the heart-rendering story of a grieving husband letting go of the love of his life. Durocher and Gilmer’s scenes together aren’t the best acted yet, strangely, it somewhat works against the context of their relationship; there’s something touching in seeing Kate repeatedly holding out hope for her relationship to rekindle and reaffirming her love even when it really is all over.
If its characters and performances are inconsistent, then Magaña’s direction is consistently artless. Unlike its love-struck leads, Magaña never aims high enough; one wonders if some more creativity and flair may have inspired some stronger performances from the cast. The closest Magaña gets to some variation are three movie spoof cutaways, one a pastiche of Casablanca no less. Other than that, the film is tonally bland.
What Love Looks Like is what it is. The filmmaking is unambitious, the performances mainly bad. Yet, Magaña’s stories carry some resonance and, if its cast and crew are largely uninspired, the film has a heart and sweetness that is an unexpected breath of fresh air.