The rom-com genre gets a smart and decidedly millennial spin in this terrific first feature by Carly Stone. The fast-rising star of the Netflix hit THE END OF THE F****ING WORLD, Jessica Barden is irrepressibly charming as Blake, a university student who looks for fresh inspiration for the sex column she writes for the campus paper (despite not getting any action herself). Though a relationship with a wealthy older man initially seems to be just the ticket, her ethically dicey situation with her handsome new sugar daddy elicits feelings that are harder to handle. With its hugely appealing young cast — which also includes Hayley Law and Camilla Mendes of RIVERDALE — and its nods to the Nora Ephron rom-coms Blake longs to live out in her own life, THE NEW ROMANTIC makes for an unusually savvy tale about love in the age of dating apps and overly hazy commitments.
Carly Stone is a Canadian writer and director, born in Toronto Ontario, who can be said to be a filmmaker from childhood. Stone, who graduated from American Film Institute, also writes for the CBC sitcom KIM’S CONVENIENCE, which earlier this month won Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards. Stone got the opportunity of her feature film directorial debut on THE NEW ROMANTICS after overhearing a conversation between the film’s producer, her brother and his husband, and nominating herself for the job. The years to follow would involve hundreds of rewrites as Stone researched the sugar-baby community online. The film was then developed at the Canadian Film Centre’s Telefilm Canada Feature Comedy Exchange, where Kiwi Smith provided feedback on the script. But the movie still needed a director. At that point Stone had not even directed a short film, and although she was faced with criticism and questions by Telefilm on her ability to handle a million dollar feature, like her fearless protagonist in THE NEW ROMANTICS, Stone embraced the challenge of directing. With her first feature win at SXSW, Stone has set a precedent for both a new generation of female filmmakers ready to tell their own stories and for Telefilm, when it comes to taking chances on raw talent.