A surprisingly charming and resonant romance that wears its heart on its sleeve, Galt Niederhoffer’s 10 Things We Should Do Before We Break Up sneaks up on you. The film, whose unfortunate title seems longer than its 70-minute runtime, doesn’t exactly defy expectations. But it utilizes its host of staples wisely, making them feel fresh again. In other words, it might be adhering to a formula, but it is done well. If something isn’t broken, after all, why fix it?
The movie’s two protagonists deserve most of the credit for the film’s success. If it weren’t for Christina Ricci and Hamish Linklater’s natural chemistry, and the actors’ general knack for inhabiting roles and imbuing their characters with sparkling charisma, this whole enterprise could have potentially fallen apart. Niederhoffer wisely steps back and allows her leads to, well, lead this ship, and while it may not tread the deepest of waters, it never gets stuck in syrupy sentiment either.
“Abigail, a single mother of two…Benjamin…has charm to spare…come up with the titular list on their very first date. “
Ricci plays Abigail, a single mother of two. She’s an excellent mom and financially comfortable. Yet ever since the divorce, her life has felt somewhat empty. Enter Linklater’s immature Benjamin, who suffers from arrested development, among other quirks (such as an inability to be around kids), but has charm to spare. Enough charm, in fact, to woo Abigail. Together, they come up with the titular list on their very first date. It involves things like (I’m paraphrasing) “crossing a bridge while making out” and “reading the travel section in the newspaper.”
Luckily, just when you think the film will fall into the trap of using this list as a gimmick for a lackluster plot, it takes a left turn. Niederhoffer still subtly ticks things off their list, but it is never the focal point. A month goes by without our heroes seeing each other, but then – uh-oh! – the dreaded stripe appears on the pregnancy test. His reaction? A panic attack, followed by the harsh, “No one’s going to want to be with a mother of three.”
"…Niederhoffer concludes her film on a near-perfect note..."