“Colin Hearts Kay” Review – 2010 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival

The Conley Brothers’ debut feature “Colin Hearts Kay” is a very local affair. It is shot entirely in Brooklyn, its lead characters are hip Brooklynites, and its soundtrack features young Brooklyn bands. In June, it premiered at the Brooklyn International Film Festival, where it played to sold-out houses and won both the Audience Award for Narrative Features and the Certificate of Outstanding Achievement in Editing.

However, the big question for this film is, “Can it succeed with audiences who are not familiar with Brooklyn sensibilities and locales?” So far, the answer is mixed. It played to a sold-out audience and received an encore presentation at the San Francisco United Film Festival, but the somewhat sparse audience at the opening of the 2010 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival gave it a positive but not overly enthusiastic reception.

This romantic comedy traces the tumultuous relationship between two bloggers: an irresponsible hot-dog-loving cartoonist named Colin Jenson (Noah Starr) and an aspiring cookbook author who won’t say the phrase “I love you” named Kay Ho (Emily Chang). After three years, Colin breaks the relationship off but quickly regrets his decision. He then goes to extremes to refashion his life and reconnect with Kay.

To be sure, “Colin Hearts Kay” contains many attractive elements. The animation that director/writer Sebastian Conley created throughout the film to bring the audience into Colin’s cartoon world is not only imaginative and fun, but also marvelously integrated with the live action (Benjamin Conley was the director of photography). The music is entirely appropriate, the awkward ballet “Colin & Kay’s Dance of True Love?” is a stroke of genius, and the two wildly divergent versions of the dinner with Colin’s rival Salvatore are wonderfully over-the-top and hilarious. Best of all might be the brief vignette featuring Kay’s insufferable grandmother.

In the end, however, “Colin Hearts Kay” did not knock my socks off because the characters are simply not well-developed. Starr was great at portraying the nerdy Colin who can only think in cartoon images (cartoon hearts are constantly “leaking” from his body when he is with Kay), but this character is such a constant idiot that one wonders why Kay would have even dated him for three years. Meanwhile, why is Colin so infatuated with Kay’s looks that he can put up with not hearing her say “I love you” for three years? Perhaps I am not cynical enough to love this film, but there simply was not enough there for us to understand why these people would continue to love each other. This said, Sebastian and Benjamin Conley would likely do wonders with a better script in the future.