'The Young Kieslowski': LAFF Review
Los Angeles Film Festival (Narrative Competition)
Ryan Malgarini, Haley Lu Richardson, Joshua Malina, Melora Walters, James Le Gros
Ryan Malgarini and Haley Lu Richardson play expectant young parents in Kerem Sanga’s second feature.
Winner of the audience award for best narrative feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival, writer-director Kerem Sanga’s The Young Kieslowski is a teen pregnancy comedy that suggests the nimble dialogue and plotting of Juno from a male perspective, minus the excessive self-regard. Continued fest exposure could help net a deserved theatrical release, with a multiplicity of opportunities following in subsequent release windows.
Brian Kieslowski (Ryan Malgarini), CalTech physics major and reluctant virgin, isn’t doing himself any favors by fronting an anti-social attitude to cover up his insecurity with the opposite sex, so it might seem fortunate when he meets Leslie Mallard (Haley Lu Richardson), a self-professed Christian and Bible student, at a campus house party. She’s already completely drunk, eager to share secrets (she’s a virgin too) and totally down to make out. And more – as the two get intimate back at her apartment later and scratch that virginity item off their bucket lists, despite Leslie’s assertion that she’s saving herself for marriage.
Then Kieslowski loses Leslie’s phone number, can’t retrace his drunken steps to her apartment and is left hoping that the two will randomly cross paths again so he can suggest a repeat of their one-nighter. Not coincidentally, Leslie is trying to track Kieslowski down with some urgent news: she’s pregnant – with twins. When she finally does locate him, her baby daddy voices support for her whatever decision she makes regarding her pregnancy, although her military novelist father Walter (James Le Gros) is already advocating an abortion.
After Kieslowski has to reveal his impending fatherhood to his parents (Joshua Malina and Melora Walters) and confront the imposing and disapproving Walter, his resolve begins to waver, even as Leslie’s determination to keep the babies grows stronger. Discussion about marriage only makes him more skittish, before a colossally poor decision provokes a confrontation, forcing Leslie to reevaluate Kieslowski’s parenting potential.
Sanga establishes the film’s offbeat style by frequently relying on Kieslowski’s quirky voiceover to frame events, a technique that boosts the effectiveness of characterization but somewhat diminishes the impact of plot developments. With much of the film’s humor arising from the couple’s awkward situations and amusing dialogue, Malgarini and Richardson demonstrate a winning rapport from their opening scenes together and a degree of vivacity that Malgarini sometimes struggles to maintain while Richardson is off-camera.
Along with DP Ricardo Diaz, Sanga finds numerous opportunities for visual humor, often instigated by handheld camera techniques, although Kieslowski’s fanciful imaginings, played out as fantasy sequences involving several alternate outcomes to his predicament, achieve a less consistent impact.
Cast: Ryan Malgarini, Haley Lu Richardson, Joshua Malina, Melora Walters, James Le Gros, Jessica Lu, Osric Chau
Director-writer: Kerem Sanga
Producers: Danny Leiner, Seth Caplan, Ross Putman, David Hunter
Director of photography: Ricardo Diaz
Production designer: Susannah Lowber
Costume designer: Dandi Dewey
Editor: Ryan Brown
Music: John Swihart
Sales: APA, The Gersh Agency
No rating, 94 minutes