Canadian director Natalie Krinsky on reviving the rom-com in ‘Broken Hearts Gallery’

Canadian director Natalie Krinsky on reviving the rom-com in ‘Broken Hearts Gallery’

Canadian director Natalie Krinsky says her romantic comedy, “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” has been the longest relationship of her life.

And like many love stories, it all began with a breakup.

More than a decade ago, Krinsky was moving out of her apartment while mourning the demise of her most recent relationship.

As she rummaged through the remnants of their shared history, she found herself torn between twin impulses — the desire to discard all reminders of their split, and wanting to hang on to mementos of their time together.

The Hamilton-raised filmmaker turned her heartache into the artistic inspiration that would eventually lead to the release of her debut feature, ”The Broken Hearts Gallery,” in theatres on Friday.

Executive produced by pop star Selena Gomez, the Toronto-shot, New York-set film stars “Blockers” breakout Geraldine Viswanathan as 20-something gallery assistant Lucy, who stockpiles souvenirs from her former flames.

After getting dumped, Lucy decides to crowdsource romantic relics for a makeshift art installation with the help of a handy hotelier, played by Dacre Montgomery of “Stranger Things.”

If that concept sounds familiar, that may be because there’s a real Museum of Broken Relationships based in Croatia, which has exhibited its collection of lovelorn artifacts across the globe.

When Krinsky heard about the museum while sorting through her own romantic clutter, she said it felt like “kismet.”

“I was like, gosh, that’s my rom-com. That’s the one I’m going to write,” Krinsky, who is based in L.A., said by phone. “It was inspired by (the museum), but it’s a very different application.”

In writing the film, Krinsky said she also drew from the rom-com classics she was raised on. But the project spent years in development limbo, earning a spot on Hollywood’s “Black List,” an annual survey published online in which executives pick the best unproduced scripts.

In the era of the modern blockbuster, love stories seem to have fallen out of Hollywood’s favour. When romantic comedies are made, they tend to find a home on streaming platforms rather than a big screen rollout.

Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has made public movie-going experiences a rarity across genres. But working within local safety precautions, Krinsky pushed to give audiences the option of experiencing ”The Broken Hearts Gallery” together.

“There’s something really wonderful about seeing a movie like this in the theatre and kind of sharing in the heartbreak and laughter … as a communal experience.”

The strategy seems to have been a success, as the movie is set to hit 290 screens across the country, which Telefilm says is noteworthy as the highest screen count for a Canadian film since at least 2017.

Despite her devotion to the rom-com cannon, Krinsky said the genre is in dire need of an update. She felt it was important that the film represent the full spectrum of love with a culturally diverse cast and LGBTQ characters.

Essential to this mission was Viswanathan, who with emotional sincerity and “comedic timing of Lucille Ball” portrays a female lead that viewers can see themselves in, said Krinsky.

“She’s a young woman who’s asking the world to love her not despite the fact that she is weird, but because of the fact that she is weird,” she said.

“I (wanted) to show women that you can be successful and you can be yourself. And you can also find somebody who appreciates those things about you.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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