MOVIE REVIEW: “Comfort”

(Image: comfortmovie.com)

“COMFORT” — 3 STARS

The simplified noun definition of “comfort” reads “a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically or emotionally unpleasant feelings.” Especially during this summer season of loud blockbusters and mayhem, when was the last time you felt simple comfort coming out of film? What types of films bring you comfort? That is a formula few genres and films can crack. William Lu’s patient romance and successful festival award winner is entitled “Comfort” and does its absolute best to deliver that very feeling.

Chris Dinh stars as Cameron, a meek 20-something Los Angelian languishing as a night courier for the surly and unreliable Eddie (Billy Sly Williams). Cameron forces himself to live a nocturnal lifestyle for personal reasons and has grown used to the flipped schedule and calendar. Driving isn’t his ambition. He is a closeted aspiring foodie who loves (you guessed it) comfort food of any world cuisine. He would love to get his hands on a job in a kitchen where he can put his passion and creativity to better use.

One of Eddie and Cameron’s steadiest and best-paying clients is the food industry business exec Martin (Kelvin Han Yee of “Milk”). After making a deadline delivery, Martin is swamped for time and propositions Cameron to pick up his daughter Jasmine (TV actress Julie Zhan) from the airport. Jasmine is girl trying to figure things out and is put off by her overworked, distracted, and absent father who cuts checks to replace happiness. She arrives in L.A. weighing a career change and is only in town for a single day.

Cameron picks up Jasmine and the two stumble through first impressions before settling into disarming small talk. Avoiding her father, Jasmine tags along on Cameron’s work and he shows her around town. They share a unique bite to eat, share self-deprecating observations, trade flirts, mix signals, and reveal histories and griefs. Their quality time has both an impact and a deadline.

This has to be said. One of the most refreshing aspects of “Comfort” is its modern depictions of Asian-Americans that debunk typical racial stereotypes without saying a word. Don’t know what that means? Let a BuzzFeed video hammer it home or send a “Harold and Kumar Escape Guantanamo” joke for a ride. Cameron and Jasmine are as plausible, approachable, and relatable as any 20-something regardless of their demographics. Could someone like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Stone play these roles? Sure, but what’s the harm in Chris Dinh and Julie Zhan? Not a thing. They just happen to Asian with zero issue, loss, or distraction because of it. Call that a step forward for diversity in feature films.

When it comes to films chronicling one-night connections and romance, the bar has been set impossibly high by Richard Linklater and his “Before” trilogy. Many films have emulated and tried to capture similar 24-hour magic, including Chris Evans’s recent directorial debut “Before We Go.” Writer-director William Lu, making his feature film debut in the big chair, leans on simplicity over flash to keep “Comfort” rightfully earnest. Cinematographer Aashish Ghandi employs nimble and smooth camerawork that frame and emphasize intimacy at a comfortable distance, especially in the many live car-set scenes with angles that flow from the hood, backseat, and windows.

The selling point for “Comfort” is its engaging romance. Lu and his two lead performers flesh out two characters that you want to spend time with. That’s the key to a one-night film. There is still the “will they or won’t they” guessing and rooting you want in these romances; only “Comfort” is grounded in realism more than serendipity. The development of Cameron and Jasmine’s chemistry is plausibly cautious and mature, free from the illogical jumps and clichés that come from something spun from “love at first sight.”

The cuteness here is light and easy on the eyes and ears. There is a steady balancing act of depth and sweetness that is never dramatic doldrums or heavy sap. The narrative stays just above room temperature with forethought and temperance to know that attention-getting torrid passion or wild encounters do not fit how such a situation would play out in reality. Such escapism and fantasy can be found elsewhere. Instead, mix those qualities together and get “Comfort” and, better yet, actual comfort.

LESSON #1: THE POWER OF ONE-TIME ENCOUNTERS — Plenty of people believe in fate, destiny, “lightning in a bottle,” or love at first sight. Other people just make it a point to be a good and decent person to anyone they meet regardless of aligned stars, beliefs, or signs. Call or compose it however you like, but one-time encounters can cause ripples, create influence, and change your life.

LESSON #2: FINDING COMFORT IN LIFE’S TRANSITIONAL MOMENTS — Jasmine and Cameron are bother eyeing choices to change their current careers and goals. Both are looking for sounding boards and sources of courage to undertake the respective changes they want. Calming encouragement coming from each other becomes just what the two of them needed.

LESSON #3: FINDING COMFORT FROM ANOTHER PERSON — When the source of comfort becomes another human being, a reliable connection of trust is established. That trust is a currency that can increase in worth towards friendship and even love between two people. If you find a person that brings you alleviation, encouragement, and solace, keep them around and do the same for them in return.