Romantic comedies – or “comedies of manners” as they were originally referred to – have been delighting cinema goers since the 1920s. Big on-screen partnerships such as Grant and Hepburn; Gable and Colbert; Hudson and Day dominated the box office with their light-hearted approach to relationships and sex. In short, we’ve had a century of this particular genre – is there anything else to add? Can there truly be a fresh take on “boy meets girl” and cinematic notions of dating and romance?
Writer-director Sasha Collington does offer up a new approach to the traditional romcom and it’s really interesting to see. There’s no “girl takes off her glasses and she’s suddenly hot” routine or “man in coffee shop turns out to be secret billionaire” plotline. In fact – pseudo genetics aside – Love Type D is a rather down to earth and relatable take on the romantic comedy.
The film centres around this notion that getting dumped is a genetic trait that you can be tested for. Think “it’s not you, it’s your genes” as a break up excuse. Humans – according to the science in the movie – can be split into two camps, dumpers and dumpees. If you test positive, you are the Type D of the title and are genetically doomed to forever be the one getting dumped, not the one doing the dumping.
Love Type D was actually working the Edinburgh Film Festival circuit back in 2019, so it does seem rather odd to be watching a film where people are panicking about positive test results in the current global situation. But it’s this science that fuels Frankie (the excellent Maeve Dermody) on in her quest to win back Thomas (Oliver Farnworth) who has just broken up with her in the most unceremonious of ways …
Where the film succeeds – from the offset, really – is in creating characters that are warm, empathetic and relatable. The excruciating open sequence, wherein Frankie is dumped by the overly formal, schoolboy brother of her soon-to-be-ex is almost unbearable to watch in its cringeworthiness. Maeve Dermody doesn’t ever resort to the hysterical woman trope; instead, we simply witness her crumple into herself in a public space. Collington really captures natural human reactions to certain situations and never gives in to cliched writing.
The on-screen relationship between Maeve and Wilbur (the absolutely brilliant Rory Stroud) is another real strength. As Thomas’ much younger brother with a keen interest in science, he is the character that ties everything together. But he is not simply there to further the plot along. Stroud offers up a really funny and wise-beyond-his years type of performance that will have you longing to see more of him. Collington also captures the grey banality of office life really well. The rattle of the photocopier, the impersonality of the cubicles and the gossip over the water cooler are all moments that many of us can identify with. Elin Phillips as Debra and Asif Khan as Deepak particularly stand out with their comedy character turns.
There are lots of fantastic one-liners peppered throughout the script, too. “I’ve done long distance before,” Frankie calls to the ghost of her first ever boyfriend. “He wants to bring his new girlfriend to the birth … I haven’t said no because I don’t want to be the bad guy,” Frankie’s heavily pregnant (and newly single) colleague laments. The idea that being Type D can be cured by throwing yourself passionately into needlework and celibacy is also very funny in its rendering. The scene in the restaurant with the elephant pheromones will also have you chuckling away.
Where the film falls down, perhaps, it’s the rushed third act. At 95 minutes’ run time, Collington does pack an awful lot in to the plot and probably could do with tacking an extra 15 minutes or so onto the end in order to smooth things out a little better. The character of Thomas is also a bit of a sticking point in that he seems like such an arse. He’s arrogant and unfeeling and unable to do his own dirty work – it’s not really clearly why someone as well put together as Frankie would be chasing after him or calling him the love of her life.
As the film rounds off, it’s clear that it’s less about the pseudo-science and more about the narratives we tell ourselves, about ourselves. If we keep repeating the mantra that we are unlucky or good things never happen to us or happiness never lasts … Does that mean we attract that type of negative energy from the universe? Should we change the stories we tell ourselves in order to take back control of our lives? Frankie’s confidence as she realises what she truly wants from life is so utterly attractive and compelling. Dermody gives the character so many different layers as she moves from one situation to the next – each one played perfectly.
Love Type D is a refreshing take on the romcom genre – one that has enough familiarity to appeal to those who love their Love, Actually but isn’t full of Hollywood cliches for those who’d rather die, actually, than watch a “chick flick”. It’s funny and intelligent and really benefits from the central performances of Dermody and Stroud – both of whom you’ll want to see more from.