Told in the style of a heart warming documentary, the enjoyable and often amusing Paper Heart is not your average romantic comedy. Sweet, funny and pleasantly peculiar, comedienne Charlyne Yi doesn’t believe in love. In an attempt to change her aforementioned opinions, she and director Nick Jasenovec travel across America asking what is love? And how do you know when you’re in it? They encounter a wide variety of people from a gay couple in Albuquerque to a group of school children down South. But it isn’t until Charlyne meets Juno actor Michael Cera does her point of view really begin to change. As the couple embark on a relationship their every move is caught on camera but with Michael’s feelings continuing to grow – will Charlyne ever be able to utter those three little words?
Inspired by her own life, the idea for the film came while Charlyne was working as a stand-up comic, ‘originally, I was like 19 and was questioning the idea of love’, she explains during a recent trip to London where the film is being screened as part of the 53rd London Film festival. ‘I was hanging out with a lot of old male comedians and I was thinking ‘I wonder if I’m gonna find someone?’.
Also around that time people would open up about their love stories and I thought it would be great to capture these things and make a story about it so I came to Nick with that idea.’
Nick Jasenovec is the film’s director who is played on screen by actor Jake M. Johnson. ‘At the time she was just looking to make a documentary about love and these different stories and she had the idea of recreating them with puppets’, he explains. ‘I was a big fan of her work already just from seeing her perform around town so I agreed to help her out and we started working on the idea. One thing led to another and we decided she should be on camera and have a presence on the film; then we decided she should have a sort of journey and story.’
It is at this point that the film evolves beyond just a documentary as Charlyne’s relationship with Michael Cera never happened – in fact it was created just for the film. ‘I didn’t want to actually expose my true life so that’s why [we came up with] the idea of fictionalising an arch for my character’ describes Charlyne. ‘It was always going to be a documentary in some fashion, that was Charlyne’s goal, but then when we decided to fictionalising a story we didn’t want it to feel like two different movies massed together, we wanted it to feel like one cohesive whole. So that led to the decision to present the fictional stuff in a similar fashion to the documentary stuff’ finishes off the director.
The addition of this fictionalisation really adds to the films appeal and after getting to know Charlyne over the first half, you feel for her as if you would a friend and become almost personally involved in her blossoming relationship. But how similar is the person on screen to whom she really is and would she act in the same way her character does? ‘The person interviewing all the people, that’s really me because I didn’t want to mock them or make them into a joke. But as far as the person on screen I think there are similarities but as far as who I am, I would never make the same choices as she did.’
Making a film about the meaning of love much have been enlightening and so I ask Charlyne if it has indeed had any effect on her feelings about the subject, ‘I wasn’t necessary negative about it, but just questioning it; which I think is healthy’, she replies. ‘The one thing I did learn throughout the documentary process was that the idea of love lasting forever – I don’t think that is necessary true. I think people will be in relationships forever long, from 3 months to 40 years, and if it ends people sometimes re-write history and say ‘that was never love’. But if you believed in the moment maybe it was true and your perceptions are a bit different because of how you feel now.’
Paper Heart is in cinemas now. For more information about the film see the website www.paperheart-movie.co.uk
Words by Karla Williams