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Randall Cole: 19 Months

There have been a lot of mockumentaries in recent years, most notable a slew from the inimitable Christopher Guest (Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman, A Mighty Wind). Some say the format is over-used, but as with anything, none of that matters if the result is a good film. There is always room on the marquee for something funny and real.

And that is what 19 Months is: an understated, startlingly real film about a couple who are doing the "right thing" for their relationship: they're breaking up.

They've read the studies. They know that romantic passion usually only lasts about 19 months anyway, so instead of doing what most people do and trying to "make it work" (essentially staying together for the sake of the apartment, as so many shacked-up couples seem to do), they plan their breakup to happen at the right moment -- like a sit-com ending before it gets tired -- and plan it to be as painless as possible.

Of course, being humans, this does not work.

It's surprising how far this film goes with basically two characters and a narrator (there are a few others who make an appearance -- a sister, a neighbour, a buddy, a fling -- but basically, Rob (Benjamin Ratner) and Melanie (Angela Vint) carry the feature.

Melanie seems a much more sympathetic character to me (although I'll admit that, as a fellow female, I may be a little blind to some of her less favourable traits) -- a little daft, a little flighty, but basically nice.

Rob, on the other hand, is impossibly neurotic and narcissistic. He reminds me of a couple of people (who shall remain nameless), with his intellectual arrogance, his use of higher learning as a way to avoid growing up and getting a job, and his general belief that he is always right (I wonder, if I mailed a couple of tickets to this flick anonymously to someone, do you think he'd get the hint?).

He is the classic man in denial, insisting one thing while reality (and a "hidden microphone") reveals another. They both do this to some degree (don't we all?): put on the mask of contentment while bickering and howling when no one seems to be looking.

The film sticks to a pure documentary style while managing to avoid the pitfalls of the genre -- shaky-cam-induced motion sickness, and inaudible dialogue. Even the scenes where the "happy" couple are quietly arguing in the distance -- imagining they are out of range of the microphone -- their voices walk the line of muffled distant whispering but we can still hear what they're saying.

There were many moments in 19 Months that made me laugh out loud, and many more that made me gasp in embarrassed recognition. I can't think of a beter recommendation for a film than that.

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