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‘Shoot to Marry’ documentary a real-life rom-com

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‘Shoot to Marry’ documentary a real-life rom-com (photo courtesy Shoot to Marry)

Love – and our ongoing search for it – is one of the fundamental building blocks of our lives. That quest to find the person with whom we’re going to spend our lives is complicated and surprising, often leading us in unexpected directions. Highs can very quickly become lows, and vice versa.

We’re all on our own journey when it comes to love … but most people don’t film it.

Steve Markle is not most people.

The Canadian filmmaker’s new documentary “Shoot to Marry” – winner of the Audience Award at Slamdance and currently available to rent on a variety of platforms – is a filmed record of his own search for love. It is an occasionally rambling, sometimes cringe-y and always heartfelt document of Markle’s quest to find the person who might help him heal his broken heart and give him what he has always wanted – someone to marry. Five years in the making, the film is rife with shaggy DIY charm – Markle was essentially a one-man crew.

While it’s true that Markle is sometimes disingenuous with regard to the motives behind the documentary, it’s also true that he has brought together a genuinely fascinating collection of women from all walks of life, so while his pitch about making a doc about “interesting women” is still the truth, albeit not the whole truth.

Steve Markle had his heart broken. Plain and simple. He reached a point in his relationship with his longtime girlfriend where he wanted to take the next step, so he proposed. But while she accepted, her stint as his fiancée was a short one – she took back her acceptance just a day later, thus ending a union that Markle believed to be forever.

In an effort to move forward with his life, Markle reconnects with Kate, an old crush and gifted artist living in Los Angeles, to shoot a documentary. In the course of that work, he realizes that he may have stumbled upon a heretofore unconsidered idea to meet women – put them in the movie!

What follows is a whirlwind, a constant crisscrossing of North America wherein Markle interviews dozens of unique, fascinating women about love and relationships – all while harboring his own potentially romantic aspirations. It’s an incredible group of women – artists and models and writers and lumberjacks and pilots and tattoo artists and hat designers and professional cuddlers and on and on and on. Every one of them strong and smart and engaging in the most particular way – and all of them willing to go on the record about the power (and pitfalls) of lives lived passionately.

Along the way, we’re given insight into Markle himself, a self-deprecatingly goofy guy who both wants desperately to be loved and isn’t quite sure that he deserves it. There’s a sad sack charm to him, an indefinable awkwardness that makes him easy to root for.

So does Markle’s documentary lead to matrimony? That, I won’t say. What I can tell you is that it is an offbeat and funny look at one man’s quest for love, even as he learns for himself what “love” truly means to him.

“Shoot to Marry” bills itself as a real-life romantic comedy. It’s an apt description – hell, it’s kind of surprising that this premise hasn’t already been used for a narrative rom-com. There are plenty of laughs to be had here as he engages with these women in various contexts; he’s an odd dude who becomes even odder when in the presence of smart, strong, engaging women.

And there’s something to be said for the evolution he himself undergoes along the way; even as the rejections mount, he learns about what it takes to be a good partner. Each of these women teaches him something real; they bring forth their respective passions and allow him to view the world through the lenses they provide.

I’m not going to lie – I was a little concerned about the premise going in. The misleading nature of the central premise of “Shoot to Marry” could have resulted in something unpleasant. And there’s no denying that there are a few squirmy moments here. But the fundamental niceness of Markle inevitably shone through. This is not a case of a self-styled “nice guy” making entitled demands – Markle actually IS a nice guy, one with his heart in the right place. It’s awkward and weird, but it never feels gross or exploitative – not an easy trick to pull off.

“Shoot to Marry” is a breezy watch, just shy of 75 minutes long. But that’s long enough for you to grow quite fond of Steve Markle, the kind of smart, quirkily charming weirdo that inspires a very real (and generally headshaking) affection. You chuckle to yourself at his awkwardness and wish him well as he introduces us to a wide-ranging cast of singular and amazing women. All in all, a strange film that probably shouldn’t work as well as it does, but Markle somehow makes it magical.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Thursday, 18 June 2020 16:09


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