Writers: Jon Garcia and Ian Stout
Director: Jon Garcia
Directed by Jon Garcia, Love in Dangerous Times tells the story of Jason (played by Ian Stout). Working in a restaurant, and struggling to establish himself as a playwright after a failed career as an actor, we feel we have seen Jason’s type before. Clever but prickly – Jason finds himself single as lockdown approaches. As he scrolls through a dating app (one of several he has on his phone), Jason searches for an ‘apocalypse buddy’ – the inference being that Jason isn’t looking for long-term prospects. If it’s the end of the world, what’s the point in making a connection? His few minutes of awkward chat with a potential ‘buddy’ ends with him asking to see her breasts. The response is not favourable.
Jason’s only regular contact is with friend, Ishmael (Jimmy Garcia). They chat about the pandemic. Jason is convinced it is being blown out of proportion; Ishmael urges him to take it more seriously. They discuss Jason’s play – still in development – Jason’s main character has to articulate his feelings for his wife. Jason is struggling to find the words, and this is a film all about articulation.
As his city goes into lockdown, Jason is forced to confront the reality he is living in. His dad, Blake (a moving performance from Bruce Jennings) implores him to come home, to be with his family. Jason refuses – the play needs to be finished. Stout and Jennings draw a relationship full of back story – the death of Jason’s mother has clearly been a turning point for them. As they chat on Zoom, Blake fills Jason in on what’s been happening at home. The virus draws nearer – his neighbour has been diagnosed with the illness. With no-one else to hand, Blake steps in and assists the neighbour. Jason urges him not to get too close.
Jason’s dating scroll continues, and one night he finds a girl called Sorrell (Tiffany Groben). They begin to message each other. At first, Jason goes into his standard dating patter. The chat is stilted – they are, after all, complete strangers – but slowly the thaw begins. Groben and Stout build an easy rapport, making their blossoming relationship all the more watchable. Their intimacy grows, not through sexual point scoring, but through words. For the first time we see Jason how he really is. The intellectual, tired of life, melts away into a man not afraid to be goofy and vulnerable. Love in Dangerous Times as a film really lets you in – as Sorrell and Jason’s relationship progresses, it becomes impossible not to become emotionally invested. When Sorrell suggests they meet in person, our guard is already down – we hope for the best.
As the race begins to cement the Covid-19 crisis onto film, there will be varying takes on what the experience has taught us. With a mixed response to Songbird – a disaster movie where a mutated virus, Covid-23, takes over the world – it appears that films more rooted in the here and now will be the way forward, and this is where Love in Dangerous Times excels. With a genuine emotional pull, this film captures how a connection – however small – can get you through the toughest days. The film discusses love in all its forms: real, virtual, imagined – and finds validity in all of them.
What Love in Dangerous Times gets right is how it speaks to its audience. A slight, 90 minute offering may not seem able to deliver the emotional heft of Supernova or Ammonite, but this film works by building simple stories with a small cast. Far from being unambitious, as this film comes to an end, there is not only a sense that we know the characters, but we feel that we have travelled their journey with them. It is this attention to story-telling that brings the film together. Love in Dangerous Times succeeds not only in capturing the mood of lockdown as a curiously universal experience, but also how our desire to reach out, and articulate what we feel, has become a way to survive.
Release Date: 6 November 2020