im_ok.pngRetrieved from evensi.ca

“I never thought anybody could relate to the characters.” Curt Jaimungal says this to me about his characters in I’m Okay, the anti-romantic comedy that’s been hitting Toronto’s screens this year. Yet, the story Jaimungal tells is, at its core, deeply human: it’s about the end of love, and even moreso about how sometimes, there’s simply no remedy for it. But it’s also not about love at all: it’s about Deen Pine, the protagonist, in and out of love, and about how easy it is to mistake love for comfort and boredom for unhappiness or loneliness. It’s also about that classic Millennial struggle that in some way unites Toronto’s youth: what is the thing that guides you? why is it so easy for that to be romance? how do you get over a breakup when it leaves you aimless?

It’s also about being “unabashedly Toronto.” “Toronto’s a part of the storyline,” Jaimungal explains. “Sometimes people say, ‘The city is such a character.’ And what they really mean is: ‘You showed lots of shots of the city.’ But I wanted that to really, actually be the case here.” And he does: I’m Okay is a part of the Torontonian vanguard that refuses to dilute its Canadian-ness by letting it become a backdrop for a nameless American city. The spaces he uses for the shots are recognizable, from the countless shots of the CN Tower to the statue in front of G’s Fine Foods; they are proudly Torontonian.

The physical spaces Jaimungal chooses for I’m Okay aren’t the most Torontonian thing about it. He weaves his characters’s narratives together in that purposefully random way that, in my experience, only Toronto can do. The protagonist is Deen Pine, but the film is just as much about him as it is about Jack, a homeless man Deen regularly chats with on Philosopher’s Walk. Hani, Deen’s best friend, is ‘perfect bisexual’ (a Torontonian epithet if I’ve ever heard one), and a soon-to-be businessman. Then there is Lynda, an ex and the generic desireable white girl whose personality we see more through Deen’s construction of her than her own actual actions.

im_okay_pics_by_jesse_read_2.jpg

 Photo Credits: Jesse Read

This reflects not only Jaimungal’s creative intentions for the film, but also his motivation to make I’m Okay, a movie produced within just three months on an (abysmal) budget of less than CAD 25,000, that is now one of the most successful films in Toronto’s indie scene. He says, “I wanted to lead by example..., and show that you can have a successful film—also a profitable film. No indie film even makes a dollar, let alone break even or make a profit. And in Toronto in particular, there’s so many different stories that can be told.... I’m interested in showing people how to [make film] sustainably, and do it so it actually impacts others.”

There is duality in its purpose, where the point of I’m Okay is to tell Jaimungal’s own story but also just to exist. A desire to stir and to create exists. This is all reflective of how deliberate he is about every element of the film. The absurdist magical realism style Jaimungal chose leaves room for interpretation and creates at least as many questions as it does answers. To a certain extent, he explains, it’s meant to reflect real life, and the fact that often, closure is a pipe dream. “Life is not a neat thing. It doesn’t have a neat ending. One of the characters asks, ‘Are you watching to be entertained, to learn or challenge yourself ?’ And that was almost a meta-comment of the movie. Are you watching this movie to be entertained? If so, then it’s just a regular comedy. But really, it’s meant for you to learn or watch it with more perspective about yourself, or to look at it later. So some things are meant to be unresolved, in the way that a lot of other things are unresolved.”

He also brings up the importance of his heavy use of symbolism throughout the movie—he has an answer to all the questions the film will leave you with, but he certainly won’t hand them to you. “If you watch it, there’s enough clues to point you in what I consider to be the right direction, but your interpretation is still as valid as anybody else’s.” And that’s the whole point—not only of I’m Okay, but of Jaimungal’s entire body of work—to give the audience the building blocks to write their own interpretation, and their own story.

comments powered by Disqus