SXSW Review: Surrogate Valentine

Monday, March 21 by

Surrogate Valentine is a typical indie drama about unresolved feelings, yet it’s entirely watchable and relatable. It feels like God Nakamura’s raw personal statement. Maybe it’s the black and white of it all, but it’s easy to go with it, certainly not too demanding at only 75 minutes, and only 70 before credits role.

Goh Nakamura (himself) is a struggling musician. His friend Amy (Joy Osmanski) wants him to let actor Danny Tyler (Chadd Stoops) shadow him for the role of a musician in her script. Through Danny, we learn the day to day struggles Goh faces, although Danny never seems to get it.

Danny is so obnoxious from the moment he starts badly imitating Goh’s speech pattern. He asks invasive questions about Goh’s sexual encounters. He answers his phone while Goh’s trying to sleep. He just never shuts up. The character of an egotistical idiot actor is nothing new, but Stoops puts the D back in D bag.

Goh is so frustrated it’s palpable. His groupie Valerie (Mary Cavett) isn’t what he wants out of the music industry. He’s got to hustle to get his CD in stores, and he’s turned down after driving all night to a meeting. He can’t even get a decent drummer in the studio so his album is ruined.

His biggest frustration is that he can’t quite tell his longtime friend Rachel (Lynn Chen) how he feels about her. That’s the really typical unresolved indie issue. Danny tries to help him by keeping Rachel’s boyfriend distracted, but Goh wouldn’t make a move.

Nakamura co-wrote the script and if this is all made up, then he’s a master dramatist. He and director Dave Boyle managed to craft an intimate film out of the simple means. The story moves and we want to spend time with the characters, even if we know it’s probably not going anywhere.

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