Somewhat-elusive-impossible-to-ever-really-fully-understand…bitch. This is the question posed in the mockumentary Paper Heart, the latest indie love flick to come down the pike. Like Away We Go, Paper Heart takes on an Us vs. Them approach to understanding the ever elusive concept of love. Relying on a grab bag of cinematic tricks, the film combines documentary style, real interviews with couples, and puppetry to convey the journey Charlyne Yi embarks on to find out if love really exists.
The concept was the brainchild of Charlyne who personally felt she was not capable of falling in love. She teamed up with director and co-writer Nick Jasenovec who was intrigued by the project and found Charlene to be a “unique person with a unique take on things.” Her “unique take” sets the sweet and almost sugary tone of the film. Charlene’s approach to living borders on the extreme with respect to cuteness and naivete. The extreme component is what makes her so fascinating to watch. It seems to be a conscious choice, a reaction to seeing an ugly world, deciding she didn’t care for it all that much, and building her own, more suitable, lens. Nick talks briefly about her childhood explaining, “she grew up in Fontana, California, a town filled with crystal meth. She had a lot of friends get pregnant young–it was a pretty harsh reality.”
The project developed and Nick says that things “naturally went in the direction of her meeting someone and falling love.” He knew that the odds of capturing that would be impossible so they decided instead to create a story. Enter Michael Cera, playing Charlene’s awkward love interest.
While Michael and Charlene tread through their relationship waters, she travels the country conducting interviews, with mostly couples, who have “interesting stories about love.” With the exception on one they don’t deviate from the sweet zone. Again this seems to be a conscious choice. Nick admits that not all of the couples were what they seemed off camera explaining, “There was an example that comes to mind but I don’t know if I should talk about it because it’s kind of personal for them.” In another interview Nick remembers the husband talked about being married before, information Charlene didn’t pursue and left Nick wondering why. The answer is fairly obvious in tone, message and style: this is Charlene’s journey.