From goofy beginning to emotionally satisfying end, "Love That Boy" is a triumph of talent over limited means. Halifax-shot tale of an overachiever who suffers from arrested development in the romance department may be too small-scaled to hit all destinations, but given the right sendoff it could click with hip, urban auds.

From goofy beginning to emotionally satisfying end, “Love That Boy” is a triumph of talent over limited means. Young Canuck helmer Andrea Dorfman tops her amiable debut “Parsley Days” with a sophomore effort that is stylish, funny and very well acted. Pic reps best entry yet in the ambitious “Seat 3A and 3C” series, which has Nova Scotians meeting on planes as the basic premise. Halifax-shot tale of an overachiever who suffers from arrested development in the romance department may be too small-scaled to hit all destinations, but given the right sendoff it could click with hip, urban auds.

After a shorthand intro recalling the acid tone of “Amelie” setup, but filled with falsely cheerful pastels, pic shows the woman that Phoebe (Nadia Litz) has become: studious, accomplished and pompous to a soporific tee. This straight-A uni student not only has goals, she has a to-do list which ranges all the way from “foraging for wild edibles” to “kayak certification.” She makes her own clothes, too, and they are delightfully hideous.

All this finally gets to her best friend and roommate Robyn (Nikki Barnett), who walks out when she meets a cool guy on a plane (in seats 3A and 3c, natch). Without an acolyte to reflect her glory, Phoebe reevaluates things and adds “boyfriend” to the bottom of her list.

Her first attempt, however, is disastrous. Confused by his frat-boy confidence, she settles on a Jeb Bush type (Dax Ravina) only interested in scoring business connections for when he gets out of school. After one grotesque imitation of a date, she assumes they are mated, and is soon aglow with yet another accomplishment. (The scenes in which he subsequently struggles to avoid her are small masterpieces in garnering sympathy for someone auds would otherwise despise.)

Amidst all this to-doing, Phoebe has ignored the attentions of Fraser (Adrien Dixon), a literal boy-next-door who thinks she’s a goddess. He’s tall, handsome, creative and attentive but there’s a down side: He’s only 14.

As counterpoint, Fraser finds his cute neighbor (up-and-comer Ellen Page) far too childish, although she has a mad crush on him.

The offbeat Litz, who played a bad babysitter in “The Five Senses,” covers a big distance — from geeky, self-centered jerk to attractive young woman with an open-hearted demeanor — without losing credibility. Journey is helped immensely by Tom Harting’s steady lensing, Marcia Connolly’s cotton-candy designs — most of the action happens in or near a house that seems airlifted out of a late-’50s suburb — and Mike O’Neil’s pleasingly moody folk-rock tunes.

Tech credits in general rarely reflect budget and time restrictions, and clean transfer from digivid to film makes a virtue of format’s more artificial qualities.

Love That Boy

Canada

Production

A Mongrel Media release (in Canada) of an imX 3A & 3C Inc. production, with assistance from Telefilm Canada, Astral Media, Nova Scotia Film Development Corp. and CHUM TV. (International sales: imX Communications, Halifax.) Produced by Jan Nathanson. Executive producers, Christopher Zimmer, J. William Richie. Directed by Andrea Dorfman. Screenplay, Dorfman, Jennifer Deyell.

Crew

Camera (color), Thomas M. Harting; editor, Michael Vernon; music, Michael O'Neill; production designer, Marcia Connolly; art director, Claudia Roussle; costumes, Amanda Burt; sound, Mike Smith; assistant director, Mary Reynolds; casting, Danis Goulet. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Oct. 3, 2003. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Nadia Litz, Adrien Dixon, Nikki Barnett, Patricia "PJ" Crosby, Ellen Page, Dax Ravina, Alexandra Seav, Amanda Smith.

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