'Broken Hearts Gallery' Director Natalie Krinsky Talks Heartbreak-Inspired Rom-Com: "No One Has Felt Pain Like That"

The Broken Hearts Gallery - BTS
George Kraychyk

Krinsky's directorial debut follows Lucy, a born collector played by Geraldine Viswanathan, who has a bad break-up, before learning to love by letting go.

After a series of release date shifts amid the pandemic, Natalie Krinsky's The Broken Hearts Gallery is finally getting a theatrical release starting Friday.

The New York City-based director's romantic comedy, from Room producer No Trace Camping, is being released by Sony in the U.S. and Elevation Pictures in Canada -- where the indie was mostly shot -- and is among the first major studio titles to reach the local multiplex as the major theater chains continue to reopen.

Krinsky talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the pandemic era release for her directorial debut, how writing an infamous Yale newspaper sex column informed her screenplay and how she found her creative voice.

The Broken Hearts Gallery also stars Dacre Montgomery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo, Suki Waterhouse, Arturo Castro, Ego Nwodim, Taylor Hill and Bernadette Peters. Selena Gomez is among the executive producers.

Your movie is getting a theatrical run from Sept. 11 after shifting release dates. Was it always Sony's intention to release Broken Hearts Gallery in theaters, and not just go online amid the pandemic?

We made this movie independently last summer. We weren't planning to sell the film during a global pandemic. We were so lucky that Sony really stepped up and release the movie and really believe in it. Obviously, everyone has to make their own decision based on their comfort level and whether they are ready to go to the theaters. That's not something I can advise people to do because I'm not the CDC. But it was always Sony's plan to release the film theatrically. So it's exciting during this time to escape for a couple hours with a romantic comedy. If people are comfortable with that, I'm excited for them to see the film. And if they don't, there will be other opportunities down the road to see it in other ways, like most films.

The Broken Hearts Gallery is your debut feature. Was there something you've always wanted to say, that audiences will hear, in your first movie?

Today, I'm married and have children. My life was very, very different when I began writing this film. I was single, I was a struggling writer. I was trying to figure out who I was and what I was to become professionally. I had broken up with my boyfriend. I was moving apartments. I was very much in the chaos of my mid-20s. For me, there's two things in the film that have always been dear to me. First, it's the universality of heartbreak. It's a right of passage for all of us. When you're going through a heartbreak, no one has felt pain like that. And the relics and the art gallery that Lucy begins is sort of emblematic of that universality, because everyone has that fossil thing under their bed that was left behind by their ex. And the other thing that's dear to me is Lucy. She's a character who, despite her foibles and her anxieties, she is a young woman who is asking the world to love her, not despite the fact that she's a little weird, but because of that. She really stands in her truth and in her weirdness.

Broken Hearts Gallery is shot mostly in Toronto, where you grew up, and with exteriors in New York City, where you live now. Was shooting in Canada a bit of a homecoming?

In many ways. I'm Canadian originally, and grew up in what's now an entertainment hub in Hamilton, outside of Toronto. We made this movie with a Canadian crew and it was really cool. I left Canada when I was in high school. And I wanted to make a New York-set romantic comedy. But it became an amalgam of two experiences: my life kind of growing up in small town Canada, and returning, and a place I love so much in New York City. It was really cool to be back. I hadn't been back in 20 years, and we had such a talented crew and it was fun to rediscover Toronto as a filmmaker and was able to live there again for a few months.

You're also known for way back writing the sex column, Sex and the Elm City, while at Yale. How did that experience seep into your debut movie script?

I credit that column for making me a writer, and allowing me to find my voice early on. At the time, I was 19 years old it allowed me to examine the way that people fall in and out of love and the comedy of dating and the comedy of sex and the comedy of just existing as a 19 year-old trying to find your way in the world. The column was a springboard in so many ways to giving me the confidence to put my writing into the world, and ultimately gave me the confidence to write professionally. So it's in many ways the foundation of everything I do.

Writing is about words, yet movies call for a visual language. How did you progress as an artist from the written word to moving images?

I'm someone who's primarily a writer. And I've always been a lover of photography and interior design and art and fashion. I would spend my spare time visiting galleries or learning about a photographer. Directing a movie really afforded me the opportunity to take different things that I was interested in and infuse them into the storytelling and use references. The idea of designing a hotel was something I would fantasize about. And I put these interests into the service of the story, and the movie's characters and emotions on the page and the relationships I'd constructed in my mind.

You've worked in the writers rooms for Gossip Girl, Grey's Anatomy, 90210. Was it easy or hard to not hand over a script you'd worked on to a director, but to finally direct your own screenplay?

I think it was hard, but pleasurable. I think it's definitely an undertaking to direct a film, having also been the writer. Being the originator of a story gives you a shorthand and a deeper understanding that you're looking for. On the other hand, now everything falls on you -- rewriting and making sure the comedy works and the plot moves. All the myriads of decision making that's the job of the director is something I personally took to and loved and could do it forever.

In your film, the main character, Lucy, is both eternally optimistic, yet also a wounded soul due to her heartbreak. How did you maintain that balance throughout the movie?

That was something that Geraldine and I worked on together. I was about finding that tone. Many people in this world move in a funny or upbeat way, while also hiding something underneath. And Geraldine and I spoke a lot about that. In some comedic scenes, we knew that Lucy was kind of guarding this secret, guarding this wound and something that she wasn't able to fully face, even with her closest friends. They are aware, but it's not something they openly talk about. And, something we always kept in mind was we wanted to make people laugh. We wanted to make a comedy and something people identified with. So it was definitely a balance that I hope we were able to achieve, but it's also to the credit of Geraldine's performance. I was able to hold both of these things with this young actress.