How about a fresh approach to the well-worn dating app rom-com. John Cerrito’s The Way You Look Tonight is the story of Peter (Nick Fink) desperately looking for love in the modern age. Bouncing from app-to-app and site-to-site, Nick may have found his soulmate in Ellie (Bailey Noble). After a fantastic dinner and a passionate interlude (sex) that evening, Nick has finally found the “one.” The morning after though is a different story as Nick wakes up alone, and Ellie is nowhere to be found.
When at first you don’t succeed, Peter goes back on the app, and another perfect match shows up. This one doesn’t work out. The next one turns into the briefest of one-night stands. What’s weird, though, is every girl he meets on these dates is wearing a similar, if not the same, green sweater.
It isn’t until he meets Heloise (Emily Tremaine) that the secret is out. Peter has been dating a changeling—a person whose physical appearance changes daily when they fall sleep at night. He has, in fact, been on dates with the same person all along. Immediately freaked out, Peter runs, but at the encouragement of his brother Jackson (Shane Coffey) and sister Mia (Juliette Goglia), who have both dated changelings at one point or another, Peter goes back, and love is in the air.
“…Peter has been dating a changeling—a person whose physical appearance changes daily…”
Every day Peter grows more and more accustomed to the daily changes of Heloise—changes in her age, race, and…gender. Peter’s first real test occurs when he wakes up to a male version of Heloise. Once again freaked out, Peter immediately ends the relationship but decides to attend a Changeling Support Group and gets a better understanding of the trials and tribulations of the growing changeling population in America.
There’s also a political message of discrimination as changelings are unable to get driver’s licenses/IDs, government benefits, jobs working with the public, and find long-lasting love. Will Peter be the first to settle down with a changeling? Will he learn to accept and cope with Heloise’s radical daily appearances?
The Way You Look Tonight is a sci-fi, rom-com allegory about being transgender and gender fluid. It’s not the perfect allegory, but it makes a big statement and lends itself to some interesting after-film conversations. Where writer/director John Cerrito excels is the world he’s built in The Way You Look Tonight. Starting with the idea of what exactly is a changeling and how would that person live and find love in today’s world, Cerrito dives pretty deep into his subject matter. It’s clear that he’s spent an enormous amount of time creating a reality for this world and thinking through the struggles of a person with no stable visual identity. The material is treated so seriously in the film, you’d swear changelings are real.
“…he’s spent an enormous amount of time creating a reality for this world and thinking through the struggles…”
Cerrito wisely focuses on the character of Peter, performed with profound emotion and insight by Nick Fink. Peter doesn’t start as the woke progressive who blindly accepts everything about Heloise. Peter struggles as any person would. We see the pressure build as he is confronted with new and more complex challenges. He often makes unpopular “easy” choices and then makes amends for them.
I have one big problem with The Way You Look Tonight, and it has to do with the “rom” part of rom-com. What is not clear, is why exactly Peter is in love with Heloise? There are plenty of moments when Peter admires her talent for illustration and storytelling and is empathetic to her struggles, but why, out of the billions of people walking the earth, are Peter and Heloise in love? Sure, she’s a kind soul, good with kids, and have awkward sex like any couple, but most of the film’s attention is centered on the struggle, and the love story takes a back seat (see Prelude to a Kiss). It opens itself to the question, “is Peter in love because of the challenge?”
Outside of that one big criticism, The Way You Look Tonight is an excellently crafted film addressing the very contemporary issue of transgender men and women and gender fluidity from the vantage point of cis-gendered citizens like myself. John Cerrito leaves no stone unturned and presents a story that you can watch with your friends and talk about for hours afterward.
The Way You Look Tonight (2019) Written and directed by John Cerrito. Starring Nick Fink, Bailey Noble, Emily Tremaine, Juliette Goglia, Shane Coffey. The Way You Look Tonight screened at the 2019 Dances With Films.
7.5 out of 10 stars