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First Look Review - LOVE IN THE SIXTH

Musical comedy concerning the travails of a single mother.

Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Jude Klassen

Starring: Jude Klassen, Les Stroud, Mikela Jay, Brett M Butler



Love in the Sixth has no concrete idea of what it wants to be: like its beleaguered protagonist, who takes on too much and tries to be several things at once, it has all the questions, but no real conclusions.




A question: if you had to survive on someone else’s urine for the rest of your life, whose would it be? Come on now, it’s a big decision. Any ideas?! This bizarre enquiry is just one of several queries thrown up by the bohemian characters of Love in the Sixth, who question their life choices, their relationships, and eventually each other throughout this fun musical indie. Writer/director Jude Klassan sets her hipster comedy within the avant garde downtown of Toronto, but aims for a universal discussion that concerns love, life and getting older (the character’s answer to the above request, by the way, was Scarlett Johannsson. I bet she’d be well chuffed!).
The style of Love in the Sixth is one of boutique fragmentation, with the film composed of talking heads sequences, musical numbers, and lo-fi black and white drama. This scrapbook approach mimics the liminal, multifaceted existences of the characters (musicians, writer, podcast hosts), but also serves to represent Love in the Sixth’s multiple plot lines. Throughout the film, we’re introduced to the various ups and downs of what seems to be the entirety of Toronto’s artistic scene, but our main narrative focus centres on Dani, a writer/singer/tutor (played by Klassan) whose days of jobbing it as a journo are numbered; keeping her politically aware daughter in tofu and Noam Chomsky books isn’t cheap. A so-so fella is on the scene, but he’s more interested in Dani’s previous sexual history than supporting her, and so is only good for a few knee tremblers, and the occasional musical duet.
The songs in Love in the Sixth are superb, and quite plentiful. Favourites include the soulful Up All Night and the funny Bitch in my Pants (you’ll all be whistling it on the way to work). It is quite an achievement for this low budget indie to produce such memorable compositions, and the repertory is, by and large, used effectively, in order to underline emotive or dramatic moments. However, at times, there is a sense of the random to the musical numbers (the opening sequence, for example), which, to this viewer, was a flaw indicative of Love in the Sixth; throughout its 100 minute runtime there’s just too much going on, and too much ‘random’.
Part of the issue is that, as Dani, Klassan is such a compelling presence, and her particular story line relatable and intriguing, that when we cut to the other characters and their relationship woes (including a couple who argue about sandwiches, and a girl seen cheating on her chap with his brother), the subplots can’t help but seem secondary. Add in some ersatz thumb twiddling about climate change, and the mundane concerns of the talking heads (one lady has an urgent moan about ‘kids on facebook’ being distracted from the real issues, etczzz), and Love in the Sixth’s boutique becomes a bit jumble sale; formless, with anything on the table (at one point, a character even points out the potential tedium of the bohemian bunch, ‘They don’t have jobs! They’re losers’- careful with that lampshade!).
This is a pity, because such narrative digressions do the movie a disservice. There is an affecting film here, about mother/daughter bonding, friendship and sexual relations (with some corking songs), and with careful and concise editing, that film would be all the more apparent. Love in the Sixth has no concrete idea of what it wants to be: like its beleaguered protagonist, who takes on too much and tries to be several things at once, it has all the questions, but no real conclusions.
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