'The Worst Year of My Life': Film Review

Courtesy of Vile Henchmen Productions
Anyone who's ever suffered through a tortured break-up will find much to relate to here

Jonathan Smith's low-budget comedy/drama depicts the downward spiral of a three-year relationship

Anyone who's ever heard the deadly sentence "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" from a significant other will find much to relate to in director/screenwriter Jonathan Smith's dissection of a three-year relationship that goes south. Marked by inventive stylistic techniques and much insight into the dynamics between a couple who drift irretrievably apart, The Worst Year of My Life wears its influences a little too obviously on its sleeve—Smith honestly admits to "ripping off" one of his favorite films, Annie Hall, in the press notes—but it overcomes its ultra-low budget limitations with enough cleverness to make the filmmaker someone to watch.

The main characters are Kyle (Trevor St. John David), a struggling stand-up comic, and Amber (Amy Vorpahl), who struggles with pretty much everything. As their relationship progresses, Kyle bankrolls Amber's vegan bakery venture in an effort to prop up her career, a gesture that ultimately proves fruitless.

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Told in flashback form, and sometimes in flashbacks within flashbacks, the film charts the relationship from its rapturous beginnings, when either partner can do nothing wrong, to its bitter ending after Amber cheats on Kyle with their mutual friend Todd (Nicholas Tucci). The story of the ill-fated union is related via therapy sessions conducted between the deeply bitter Kyle and his improbably beautiful shrink (Cate Beehan).

It's familiar material to be sure, but it's propped up by witty, insightful dialogue and amusing sequences in which Kyle conjures up such fantasy scenarios as a mock "Dating Game," an Old West shootout, and a boxing match.

That the storyline was inspired by personal experiences seems obvious, and one of the film's more problematic aspects is that Amber is depicted in deeply unflattering terms, with her malfeasances including lying, cheating and even criminal behavior. It would have been easier to accept Kyle as a more reliable narrator—and the story is told entirely from his point of view—if the scales had been a little more balanced.

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Still, it's an impressive achievement, and the filmmaker is to be commended for casting lead performers who actually look like real people rather than the models of physical perfection usually seen in romantic comedies. Opening theatrically on the same day as the fantasy-purveying 50 Shades of Grey, it provides a refreshing alternative that deals in realistic fashion with the sort of relationship we all find ourselves in at one time or another.

Production: Vile Henchmen Productions
Cast: Trevor St. John Dvid, Amy Vorpahl, Cate Beehan, Nicholas Tucci, Nicole Day, Brandie Posey, Deidre Scott, Rachel Kerbs
Director/screenwriter/executive producer/editor: Jonathan Smith
Producers: Nicole Day, Bernie Stern, Amy Vorpahl
Director of photography: Matt Gulley
Composer: Julie Meinswald

No rating, 81 min.