A modest indie romantic comedy that is not perfect, but is full of heart.
Bill Sebastian’s Qwerty is a modest indie romantic comedy that does not attempt to be more than what it is—a cheerful love story about two social outcasts who were destined to be together. Although the results of the film are much like the characters found within it—not perfect but full of heart—Qwerty largely remains an endearing watch because of the adorable awkward romance between the two soul searching characters.
Avid Scrabble player Zoe (Dana Pupkin) stands up and shouts the word “Klingon”, disturbing her surrounding DMV co-workers with her latest finding of a vulgar vanity plate request. It only seems fitting that a wordsmith like herself would have a job that involves researching words to make sure they are appropriate for personalized license plates for the state of Illinois. Zoe has a natural quirky yet loveable charm to her that is immediately observed by a department store security guard she bumps into named Marty (Eric Hailey). Marty is an unkempt looking fellow (resembling a mashup between Shaggy from Scooby-Doo and John Hawkes) who is currently at a low point in his life working at a dead-end job that has him on edge with suicidal thoughts.
Zoe and Marty do not share a whole lot in common other than the same level of awkward flirting skills, which makes for a hilarious yet adorable first date between the two. As they begin to spend more time together we find out Zoe has some skeletons in the closet and happens to be not so different from Marty after all. It is hard not to root for them as a couple because they balance out each other’s low self-esteem flaws perfectly when together.
There are two distinct storylines in Qwerty, each that work well on their own but not necessarily together. The best parts of the film are when the two main leads share the screen together—which thankfully happens a lot during the first two acts. The final act of the film mostly consists of Scrabble playing when Zoe enters a National tournament—entertaining in its own right thanks to the comical commentary from the play-by-play announcers. But the film struggles to blend these acts together seamlessly thus making these stories seem completely disconnected from one another. Not to mention the homeless guy who constantly follows the couple around, which ends up being more of a distraction to the story than anything else.
Perhaps the best feature about the film is the cinematography. Impressively shot just with a Canon DSLR, Qwerty captures Chicago’s cold nip in the air weather produced by Lake Michigan. Also, there are a couple of really well-shot time-lapses of the Chicago skyline that make for great transitions between scenes.
Even though Qwerty can be rough around the edges at times—most noticeable at a family gathering where some of the editing gets a little choppy and the dialog becomes a bit manufactured— it is hard to deny the charm that extrudes from these offbeat characters. This is a step above your average romantic comedy, but is not completely without flaws of its own. Thankfully, the good does outweigh the bad in Qwerty, mostly due to the wonderful chemistry between the soul mates who make you want to cheer for them.