As a member of the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival’s marketing committee, I’ve been given the awesome opportunity of reviewing films from this year’s lineup leading up to the festival. It is also an honor to be a part of Reel Asian’s very special 15th year (November 9 – 19). Up now, SURROGATE VALENTINE.
Goh Nakamura plays Goh Nakamura in this very sweet film, where he resides in a place no guy ever wants to be in, but likely has been before – The Friend Zone. Surrogate Valentine follows Goh through his mundane life as a singer-songwriter in San Francisco, until it is talkatively interrupted by television actor, Danny Turner (Chadd Stoops). Danny shadows Goh as they tour the West Coast to methodically study the laid-back and quiet persona of the musician, for an upcoming movie role. Reluctantly placed in this odd road-trip pairing, Goh finds an unexpected friendship and new inspiration to get back the one that got away, Rachel (Lynn Chen).
In Goh Nakamura’s acting debut, he didn’t have to travel far to be present and entertaining on screen. Without much need to step into the skin of another character, it is clear that Nakamura’s innate real-life personality is quirky and wordlessly funny, so much so that he naturally carries the film. Driving the story just as well is Chadd Stoops, who portrays the overcompensating and annoyingly narcissistic Hollywood caricature in Danny Turner. The juxtaposition of the chilled out Goh and the cartoonish Danny was a delight to watch, showing that chemistry can be created even with distinct contrasts in character.
What Director Dave Boyle has done in this film was a clever repackaging of the overused “the girl that got away” plot. Instead of having it as the driving force of the narrative, which has been beaten to death by Hollywood rom-coms, Boyle seamlessly slips it in and out of the foreground to shift the focus onto his two leading men when needed. But when it comes down to it, Goh’s true motivation is blatantly Rachel. With the tasteful support of black and white visuals, and the white-on-rice compatibility of Goh’s own soundtrack, this well done indie comedy teaches us two very important lessons: If you’re a guy and you find the right girl, go for it. And if you’re a girl, be aware of the friend zone, it’s not fun to be in.
Get your tickets to SURROGATE VALENTINE at Reel Asian right here!