Emoticon ;) might be the cutest movie title I've ever seen. It puts it all out there and let’s you know that this movie is going to be something different. The indie drama follows Elena (Livia De Paolis), a graduate student working on a thesis about “modern means of communication.” The plot examines her relationship with a much older man and the issues that can come up when dating a person very different from herself. She tries to hold everything together through school, a pregnancy scare, and adjusting to her new place in her partner’s life. Navigating a web of crazy emotions and relationships, she soon realizes that academia hasn’t prepared her for "real life" at all.
Also written and directed by De Paolis, Emoticon ;) feels earnest and well intentioned, but simply doesn’t live up to the title. Audiences go in expecting something cute and fun, but instead, the film is introspective and almost self-deprecating. De Paolis is an excellent writer and clearly understands human relationships, but beyond the script, the movie falls flat. One is left wondering if the film is simply a vanity piece for De Paolis. A little distance between the script and the production might have benefitted the film and given it a bit more depth and perspective.
Overall, Emoticon ;) is a charming film that would pair nicely with a night off and a glass of wine. De Paolis was able to tackle her debut film with grace and I look forward to seeing where else she goes as a filmmaker. —Kelly Maxwell