The Romcom sub-genre has become one increasingly cross-bred with other genres: sci-fi (About Time, Palm Springs), horror (Woman of the Photographs, Jennifer’s Body) and many more. It’s a great way to invigorate a formulaic genre with new life, and inject a distinctive style into something familiar. However, deconstructions of the romcom genre are far and few between — it seems much more difficult to interrogate these tropes on their own, whilst retaining the sentiment of a romcom. Somehow, Sasha Collington makes it look easy.
Love Type D could be described as an anti-romcom. The film follows Frankie (Maeve Dermody), as she discovers that she has a gene that automatically sabotages any attempts at any relationships she makes. She sets out to reverse the gene’s effects by breaking up with each of her exes, whilst struggling to get over her latest ex, Thomas (Oliver Farnsworth). While watching it, I found myself reminded of Richard Curtis’ work or even the Bridget Jones series, with its combination of socially awkward humour baked into the Britishness of the characters. It’s all got a slight, zany quality to it that gives it some great comedic zest. Some of the more hilarious moments come from the invasiveness of Frankie’s investigations into the ‘Dumpee’ gene with her co-workers, with her incredibly personal questions in the bluntly monotonous workplace.
Maeve Dermody is a joy to watch, that you’d wish you could have discovered her sooner. Every relationship Frankie has in Love Type D is packed with this brilliant tension between seriousness and absurdity, especially in her correspondence with her ex’s young brother, Wilbur (Rory Stroud). It takes on a brushstroke of the fantastical, as the child scientist essentially transforms Frankie into his guinea pig — her happily going along with it as a sign of her maddening obsession with becoming the Dumper; no longer Dumpee.
This tension between seriousness and absurdity is exactly what makes Love Type D such a delight, because it allows Collington to go to some seriously unexpected places — whether that be the brief romantic liaison with the ghost of a bad boy, or the heist-like planning of a hypnosis scheme gone wrong. By dipping her toe into these other genres briefly, she creates a delightfully absurd romcom that’s grounded by its blunt seriousness — making you cry with laughter at the sheer lengths Frankie will go to for love. Towards the third act, it even feels as though the film is rooting against Frankie, as the world pushes back against her by bestowing consequences on her very illegal acts. For Frankie it’s a romantic comedy. But for her ex Thomas, it’s practically a horror film as Frankie lures around every corner, sneaking into every event he attends.
Despite the absurdity and the condemnation of the quirky romcom protagonist, there is some seriousness to Love Type D. Because while this is a fun cinematic experiment into the possibility of changing our love lives scientifically — we can still instantly empathise with Frankie. To an extent, the film is about seriously confronting yourself and understanding yourself; resolving unresolved emotions that still tumble around in your mind and realising that perhaps closure is the most important thing you need in order to move on. We can see this with Frankie’s exes, washed up or worse, coming to the realisation that ironically, Frankie was the best thing that had happened to them.
Ultimately, Love Type D is far less about love than it is about self-acceptance. It’s a charmingly witty and delightfully comical deconstruction of the romantic-comedy genre that not only shows off the slightly villainous nature those protagonists can take on, but also defines Sasha Collington as an intelligent genre interrogator and director that I’m looking forward to seeing more from.
Love Type D screened as part of the 47th Seattle International Film Festival.