Simon Boisvert is a rather unique case in Quebec cinema. For almost ten years now, he’s been writing, producing, directing and acting in films away from the spotlight, financing them himself and also taking care of their distribution, which is often very limited. That’s not what makes him so special, mind. You see, there are quite a few other underground filmmakers who do their own thing, not caring whether the mainstream ever catches up to them, but most often, they are making genre movies, experimental films or other kinds of pictures that generally don’t fit in Quebec’s system of publicly funded cinema.

Dealing mostly with relationships between men and women and the way sex and everything that comes with it (desire, frustration, lies, manipulation, etc.) complicates everything, Boisvert’s films are hardly all that unconventional, extreme or anything. On the big and the small screen, this theme has long been the bread and butter of many local writers and directors. Now, the fact that Boisvert’s early works (“Stéphanie, Nathalie, Caroline & Vincent”, “Vénus de Milo” and “Des gars, des filles et un salaud”, which were helmed by Diana Lewis, who plays a supporting part here) had particularly poor production values and decidedly uneven performances didn’t help, but from title to title, you can see a clear evolution and I honestly believe that “Barmaids”, “Échangistes” and “40 Is the New 20” are interesting, enjoyable little films, if not without their flaws.

Boisvert’s latest, which is also his first shot in English, stars Pat Mastroianni as Gary, an aging Gen X bachelor who’s starting to realize that he could really use some long-term “female companionship”. So when he reconnects with his long-lost high school girlfriend Jennifer (Claudia Ferri), he feels that he might be ready to finally make a serious commitment… Alas, she doesn’t see things the same way, and this is where the plot thickens. Instead of letting her go, Gary decides to sabotage Jennifer’s attempts to find another boyfriend, until she supposedly comes around and realizes he’s the one for her. Obviously, this can’t end well!

“40 Is the New 20” is filled with insightful yet often hilariously macho dialogue, which is well served by the switch to English and by what’s certainly the best cast Boisvert has ever assembled. I instantly got a liking for Bruce Dinsmore, who’s basically the Randal to Mastroianni’s Dante or the Banky to his Holden, i.e. the foul-mouthed jackass who keeps steering him towards wrongheaded decisions. Which is to say that there’s a strong Kevin Smith vibe to this film, even though it’s devoid of geeky references and the characters are older and not such slackers.

Shot in wonderful locations around Montreal, “40 Is the New 20” is a very good-looking flick, too, light years from the first Boisvert productions. While not quite reinventing the romantic comedy, it’s a solid example of that kind of movie, with a keen eye on how people behave and just enough outrageous twists to make it fun. And by the end, it actually cuts pretty deep, to the point where it’s almost more a dark stalker drama than a rom-com!