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By Alex Saveliev | September 14, 2022

Writer-director Sean McGinly does wonders with the most minimalist of set-ups in the romantic drama Match. It’s quite the ballsy move to essentially have two actors talk to the camera for 90 minutes. But it pays off, thanks largely to two wonderful lead performances that run the emotional gamut and consequently amount to more than extended auditions. While highly theatrical, McGinly employs just enough subtle flourishes to emphasize the visual poem’s multitude of moods.

Jennifer (Ahna O’Reilly) and Ian (Austin Nichols) meet online. She’s overly sensitive and perhaps a tad too clingy, expecting a “fairy tale” relationship. He’s a wealthy young man weighed down by his past, overly cocky and deeply insecure. Their chemistry builds, then flounders; they meet each other in person, go on hiatus, date other people, get kinky, and argue passionately. The ebb and flow may be that of a typical rom-com, but stripped of all the flourishes associated with the genre, the film becomes an incisive dialogue (monologue?)-driven study of contemporary dating.

“…they meet each other in person, go on hiatus, date other people, get kinky, and argue passionately…”

McGinly writes naturalistic dialogue, and both O’Reilly and Nichols are up to the task. They effortlessly and elegantly sway between resentment and defensiveness, affection and suspicion; they get snarky, upset, and hurt. Their monologues are split into two screens, seen via type-written emails, or accompanied by colorful backgrounds. But it’s the unexpected narrative swerves that impress most. The filmmaker skips past the duo’s phone conversation and in-person dates, resolutely sticking to the established format. When the protagonists recount these events, it’s up to the audience to interpret what happened and how they feel about it.

Jennifer gushes about how refreshing it is to write actual emails as opposed to merely swiping. Match reiterates how deeply entrenched we are in digital connections. An entire romance can be written via texts and emails. The days of meeting in person and reading each other’s micro-expressions to pick up on cues are long in the past. We have this expected image of a person based on their wittiest, most charming emoji self, and if it doesn’t coincide with the real human being, the discrepancy may be too much to overcome. By the time we actually meet, we’re either disappointed by a catfish, or we know next-to-nothing about each other’s mannerisms and meaningful gestures – the things that still make us human.

Match serves as a cinematic encapsulation of modern dating: two people, baring their souls to impassive screens, eagerly anticipating typed reactions and then imagining the visuals that come with them. The fact that McGinly’s feature rarely, if ever, resembles an extended short is a major feat in itself. The central trio proves to be a true match made in heaven.

For more information about Match, visit Sean McGinly’s official website.

Match (2022)

Directed and Written: Sean McGinly

Starring: Ahna O'Reilly, Austin Nichols, Spencer Garrett, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Match Image

"…the central trio prove to be a true match made in heaven."

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