A man and a woman met for their first date together, having “met” online first. They seem to have a romantic spark over dinner, trading witty repartee that only seems to intensify their chemistry. Joking about how online dating causes people to market themselves as shiny, perfect packages, they decide to be brutally honest about their foibles, hangups and other idiosyncrasies.
They tell the truth about their flaws, their political views and annoyances, and their bad habits in relationships. The date goes well and ends in a mutually satisfying way — but how well do they truly know each other?
Written and directed by Max Tobin, this acerbic romantic comedy has lots of sparks, both between the characters and through its buoyant fizzle-and-pop creative execution. Like many films of its genre, there’s a focus on the vibe and rhythm between the two parties, as they spar, bond, flirt and mutually delight in one another’s company, and the dynamic editing and camera also add their own escalating energy. But with its intelligence and sharp wit, the story eventually shades the eternal dance of romance in a slightly darker register, with fascinating results.
Essentially a two-hander, the narrative cycles through the traditional rituals of courtship familiar to everyone. It captures the potential couple through dinner, dancing and drinks, all while the pair gets progressively drunk. Their smart, snappy and very funny dialogue also progresses from civilized wit to increasingly candid revelations to drunken sloppy confessions.
The reveals at first emphasize their quirky cuteness as people, but then they begin tiptoeing into more difficult waters, like politics, past romantic failures and the ways they sabotage relationships and themselves. Yet they still push forward, caught up in the rush of potential sex and romance.
The dialogue is brought to life by actors Daisy Mander and Kell Chambers, who both balance a delightful, light quirkiness with an increasing amount of insecurity and vulnerability. Their performances and interaction capture a fascinating tension: while revealing personal details about themselves, they’re enticing one another, but they’re also using their honesty as self-defense against genuine connection. They think they’re being revealing and candid, but they find that no matter how open they seem with one another, deep down they remain mysteries with one another.
Witty, self-aware and deftly directed, “I Will Despise You” captures the pleasures and rush of initial first impressions and the start of romantic sparks. But it also has a wry, knowing sense that love and relationships demand more than the initial adrenaline and dopamine rush. Even though this potential couple gets down to brass tacks and lays out the brutal truth of who they are, they discover there is no bypass to genuine intimacy, which takes time, intimacy and a mutual buildup of trust, care and connection. In the end, they may know the worst of one another, getting right to the annoyances, flaws and faults they’d discover with one another if they stay together as a couple. The final question for them, and viewers, is if there’s any room for them to go forward and if they burned their bridges to that future.