I love a romantic comedy, more than that I love a dash of serendipity. So when, a few months after I toyed with the idea of finding Non-Transferable’s makers on Twitter (and begging for a screener, of course), the film’s maker Brendan Bradley found me, I was pretty impressed.
I’m a big fan of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, an Emmy award-winning YouTube series based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. It was because of the series’ star Ashley Clements that I found out about Non-Transferable. Unbelievably, the film’s writer & director Brendan Bradley then found me because I have a penchant for romantic comedies, and since Film Inquiry has moved into the big leagues on Rotten Tomatoes this knowledge, it seems, is now very public.
I know this seems like unnecessary information now, but believe me, it’ll be important later on. All you need to know for now is that Non-Transferable is a sweet homage to the ’90s romantic comedy, it’s an independent film of a very high quality, and (to me) it’s a sign of what films are going to become.
No School Like The Old School
The fact of the matter is that most of the great romantic comedies came along in the ’90s: While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless In Seattle (to name a few). Since then, there have been a few surprises but no consistency in the genre. So it was a nice surprise to see a film that wanted to pay homage to this time and style, albeit with a twist for our new technologically savvy generation.
Non-Transferable is the story of ‘Global Concierge’ Amy Tyler (Clements) who, after booking a lavish and non-refundable trip around Europe for her and her boyfriend, is promptly dumped. Not willing to let their friend wallow in her break-up, her friends Marcie (Shanna Malcolm) and Sandra (Katie Wee) suggest she stalk the net looking for hot men of a similar age who, importantly, share her ex-boyfriend’s name and (even more importantly) would like to take a trip to Europe. After a number of frogs, Amy ends up at the end of her list with an attractive, enthusiastic stand-in for a boyfriend; Josh (played by Bradley himself).
It’s all pretty standard romcom formula, which I’m always a supporter of, yet it’s what the writer does next that’s most important. Bradley takes inspiration from the issues of this current cyber generation; Internet celebrity, Facebook stalking, and the security issues of Google, to bring the romcom up to date. Non-Transferable has its roots in You’ve Got Mail, but exists in a world that has moved beyond this technology. No one’s a mystery anymore, though the likelihood of finding and bonding with a complete stranger is unusually high.
Because of this, Non-Transferable is strangely relatable, and also very entertaining. The story is solid and there are some good laughs to be had. I, for one, really appreciated the strength of the female characters and the occasional dirty jokes they pulled off. I’m so sick of male filmmakers who treat women like innocent and delicate creatures, so it made for a refreshing change. That being said, I would have liked a bit more depth to Marcie and Sandra. While they are entertaining support, I feel like their characters could have been given greater meaning.
Clements & Bradley
What really makes this film is Clements and Bradley. With Clements acting as a producer and Bradley as writer/director, they have brought together a film that is appealing to the cyber generation that they have built their recent successes and possibly their relationship on. Clements and Bradley are both alumni of the Pemberley Digital dynasty, with Clements finding success in The Lizzie Bennett Diaries and Bradley in Frankenstein MD. It’s quite possible that the lessons they learnt from the success of the company founded the ideas on which this film is based, made, and marketed.
The production, for a digital film, is pretty flawless. Who even knew such good cinematography was possible with such cameras? The film itself is mainly set in and around Istanbul, Turkey and was made in collaboration with the Turkish Tourism board. This kind of inventive production is to be admired, and cinematographer Davidson Vorhes does a great job of showing off the landscape. The acting is also very good, the scenes are inventive and fun, and Bradley doesn’t even mind stripping off for the cameras. Which to me speaks of a director who has a fair amount of respect for the women he has written, and is working with.
However, I was left feeling like I wanted more of Amy and Josh. I understand that the limits of an independent film means you can’t have everything you want, but I really felt like Amy and Josh needed more time to grow together on screen. It all felt a bit too quick and unreal, even for a romantic comedy. That being said, everything was there, I just wanted more; more time, more Amy and Josh, and more of a love story. As it is I like the film a lot and I will certainly watch it again; it just didn’t get under my skin as I hoped it would.
A Film For A Cyber Generation
What really impressed me about Non-Transferable (which I’ve probably made obvious in this article) is the idea behind it. I’m not alluding to its homage to ’90s romcoms (which believe me, I love) but its concept, both in story and production. This is a film about how life is now, how we find love in this new world of communication. Amy has built a career on social media, she finds Josh through the same world, and (without giving too much away) the film’s story rests on social media’s ability to connect.
More than that, though, this film makes me wonder about what film distribution is going to become, and makes me excited for it. Gone are the times when a film found production funding and distribution backing based on the experience of the makers, the fame of the players, or the production implications of the script. And then distributed through the cinema or possibly through DVD. The way in which we connect has completely changed. Because of this, and the ever increasing Internet speed, we are able to make and share films in a way we never would have imagined.
Bradley was able to make this film because he connected with and obtained the backing of a tourism board in another country. Bradley and Clements (I’m guessing) met because of Pemberley Digital, a company founded on vlogging. I found out about this film because I’m a fan of a YouTube series featuring the lead actress and saw Non-Transferable mentioned on her Twitter feed. Bradley found me because I write for a website and he was able to email the link to a screener available online. Ten years ago, all of this would have been impossible.
When I was a kid I had to wait to get a new VHS on my birthday or for Christmas, but now? The world has changed and it excites me to see that, provided you have the talent and the smarts, really anyone can make a film and get it out to the people who will appreciate it. We are connected to the filmmakers now, and there are many who won’t know what to do with that, but then there will be people like Bradley who will.
Non-Transferable is a very sweet film; there are some great laughs to be had and the cast is incredibly likeable. I love the homage to the ’90s romantic comedy, and for an indie film I think the production is top notch. This is Bradley’s first feature and I really do feel like he has so much potential (and I’m not just saying that because we’ve emailed and he seems incredibly sweet), I also always appreciate a male filmmaker who takes the time to write women well.
Admittedly, I felt like the film had more to give. I wanted just a bit more depth, and right there in the middle I wanted more time for Amy and Josh to grow together. It felt a bit rushed through, especially since Amy and Josh never moved on from Turkey and there was a trip across Europe to be had. That being said, I can appreciate the ramifications of an independently made film; money for international filming doesn’t grow on trees after all.
Despite these sticking points, Non-Transferable is a sweet, funny film, which I have tremendous respect for. I will definitely be watching it again, along with The Lizzie Bennett Diaries and Frankenstein MD, which are both conveniently available on YouTube. There’s a whole world of stories out there: features, shorts, series, just waiting to be watched. There are people, too. Not just long forgotten friends Instagramming their lunches, but talented people, like-minded people, who want to make films for you. The only thing stopping you from meeting them is the speed of your Internet connection.
Have you seen Non-Transferable? What do you think about this brave new world of filmmaking?
Non-Transferable was released on Valentine’s Day in the US and is available to stream on Amazon and iTunes. Global release dates are as yet unconfirmed.