Newness is a 2017 romantic drama about two millennials navigating a social media-driven hookup culture who begin a relationship that pushes both emotional and physical boundaries.
Love in the modern age, at least for many, means getting seen not at the bar or the local club but being swiped right on some dating app, reduced to a profile image that does little to reveal who they are but tap into some baser impulse by a person they’ve never met. This has also become part of a new trend in filmmaking, many attempting to give authenticity to their stories while layering in commentary. Drake Doremus‘ latest Newness does just that, observing a relationship built from such in a powerfully contemporary film that may not find every footfall it’s after but is nonetheless a very affecting experience.
Martin Nicholas Hoult, a sensitive pharmacist uses an app called Winx to rack up dates, mostly sexual encounters. One night, after a date fails, he heads out right after on another, meeting Gabi (Laia Costa), a Brazilian-born physical therapist who also uses Winx for the same reason, and coincidentally enough, is also out about after a failed date. Turns out though, they actually kinda like each other and find themselves betraying the purpose of the app, developing a real relationship, where she even moves in with him. So committed to each other, they even delete their Winx apps at the same time, securing their bond. But it’s not long before the love is not sustainable and after struggling with the monotony of it all, change their status to ‘open’ and this is where their greatest challenges lie.
Newness is a frank and honest glimpse into the world of millennial dating, where the ease and availability of casual sex lies only at your fingertips and works to dissect that dynamic. It’s an important part of the story and colors the corners of an otherwise familiar one with great weight. That’s not to say there aren’t good things beyond this, as the rawness between Hoult and Costa is really the heart of the story that sometimes, sure, lays on the paint pretty thick, but by no means changes our impression. Martin’s big secret (from Gabi, not us) is that he is divorced, and that he still carries a bit of a torch. That’s only a small chip in the armor though and Newness, as the name itself implies, explores how the shine only last so long before everything under it must come through.
Though not directly meant to be so, I found a lot of Newness reminding me of Edward Zwick‘s About Last Night (1986), with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. That film took to heart the complexities of ‘modern’ dating at the time as well, being one of the first to strip away much of the tropes of movie romance and deal with genuinely affecting consequences of trying to be in love. Newness does the same, updating the whole affair into the app age. As Martin and Gabi explore their open relationship, it leads to unexpected tributaries that slowly drain them as Martin’s past becomes a greater source of pain.
Hoult and Costa are very good together with Hoult cleanly separating himself from his earlier work. It’s deeply personal and subtle and should solidify him as one of the most accomplished of his generation. Costa, however, grounds the film, she a jarringly authentic presence that makes it all work. Doremus creates a sort of claustrophobic romance that can’t always escape the trappings of the premise, leading to some obvious moments that sometimes don’t strike as well as they should, however, there’s no denying that overall, Newness works very well. Love is the greatest challenge and as times change and we navigate through the madness, films like this treat romance and audiences with respect. Sure it’s flawed, and that’s just how it should be.
Movie description: Newness is a 2017 romantic drama about two millennials navigating a social media-driven hookup culture who begin a relationship that pushes both emotional and physical boundaries.
Director(s): Drake Doremus
Actor(s): Nicholas Hoult, Laia Costa, Danny Huston