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Duncan has decided to end it all. Distraught and heartbroken, he sits down and writes a suicide note to his last five girlfriends hoping to make a point: Love doesn’t exist. After five painful break-ups, Duncan is going to show them! He pours his heart out on the page and slams his pen down. Then, the young man quickly downs a handful of pills with some tequila and collapses on his apartment floor.
So begins Julian Kemp¹s clever romantic comedy, My Last Five Girlfriends, adapted (by Kemp) from a novel by Alain de Botton. The bleak opening aside (and it’s really not that bleak), Kemp¹s film brings to mind the work of Terry Gilliam, if he was working from a script by Richard Curtis. As Duncan (a touching and very funny Brendan Patricks) slowly drifts away to his supposed death, we enter his mind as he replays those last five relationships. Kemps uses an amusement park metaphor to represent the hero’s love life. He approaches each attraction with optimism, taking in the ups and downs, the joys and fears of each relationship. The theme park is Duncan World and each woman is a different ride.
There is Wendy (Kelly Adams), lovable and fun, but never got over her ex-boyfriend; Olive (Jane March), who is a little uptight; Rhona (Cecile Cassel) who is hyper sensitive; and Natalie (Edith Bukovics) who is a bit needy. Each of these women is just a warm up for Gemma (a delightful Naomie Harris), the woman for whom Duncan falls the hardest. The first four women comprise the first half of the movie, while Duncan’s love affair with Gemma occupies the latter half of the movie. The relationship between Duncan and Gemma is sweet, natural and ultimately heartbreaking.
Patricks has a natural charm that makes him easy to watch and someone to root for. His chemistry with all five actresses is real, especially with Harris, whose smile lights up any scene she’s in. As much as you’re rooting for Duncan, you’re also rooting for the two of them to succeed. It should come as no shock that these two don’t make it. After all, the film is called My Last Five Girlfriends. However, it’s still terribly sad watching things fall apart. Sad, but funny.
In addition to writing truthful characters that are both funny and smart, Kemps uses the film medium to create whimsical and inventive visual tricks to tell his story. While being pleasantly entertained by the romantic comedy of the film, there’s no doubt you’ll also be equally entertained on a visceral level.
My Last Five Girlfriends was a selection for this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The filmmakers struck a deal with the festival to make this film immediately available through streaming on You Tube until June 16th. You can access it here. At just $5.99, My Last Five Girlfriends is worth that price, and much more.