IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS (15) **** DIRECTED BY: ALEX HOLDRIDGE STARRING: SCOOT MCNAIRY, SARA SIMMONDS, BRIAN MCGUIRE
THIS hipster, low-budget comedy does that rare thing in cinema: it treats romance with the awe and respect it deserves. Set in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve, it revolves around aspiring screenwriter Wilson (Scoot McNairy) who, like many other desperate souls on this day, is anxious to avoid being alone at the start of another potentially depressing year. MySpace and US phenomenon Craigslist are the new keys to meeting someone – anyone – vaguely meaningful, which is why after being caught indulging in a spot of onanistic worship of his flatmate's girlfriend, he's persuaded to post a personal ad online to get him back into the company of women again. This is how he meets Vivian (Sara Simmonds), a wannabe actress and head-messer extraordinaire, and their curt speed-date rapidly turns into a rambling romantic odyssey as they gad around a secret Los Angeles. Eschewing the self-consciously grainy trappings of most microbudget indie fair, writer-director Alex Holdridge opts instead for endearingly articulate slackers spouting witty and polished dialogue and visuals that strive for the head-over-heels swagger of Manhattan. Even more satisfying is the realisation that just when you think you've got the film pegged it delivers an unexpected ending that helps it transcend its influences to become its own bitter-sweet thing of beauty.