Matthew Watts’ Mutual Friends is an off-the-wall indie ensemble flick set in the Big Apple. A woman throws a surprise birthday party for her fiancé and their mutual group of friends. The party reveals underlying frustrations going on in the friends’ current relationships that eventually boil over. This is a lively, funny movie that gives us the interlocking friendships and loves of ten young New Yorkers, destined to end in disaster at the party.

Liv (Caitlin Fitzgerald) is throwing a surprise 30th birthday party for her fiancé, Christoph (Cheyenne Jackson). Having only dated a few months, their engagement is still in its early stages. Liv invites their friends and relatives to the party. Complicating matters is Liv’s best friend of many years, Nate (Peter Scanavino). Liv had a one-night affair with Nate after she got engaged and doesn’t know how she feels about it. It is crystal clear that Nate has strong romantic feelings for Liv. That is the pulse at the center of Mutual Friends, despite Nate’s dalliances with another woman he’s recently met.

The tangled web of their relationships will result in a memorable and even touching finale.

Christoph’s former girlfriend of many years, Annie, happens to get invited to the party. She is still bitter over their break-up, especially after Christoph quickly proposed to Liv. Annie had been dating Christoph for seven years and never received a proposal. Liv’s brother Thomas handles preparations for the party in typical slacker fashion. He’s dropped out of law school and is looking to travel the world. Liv’s other brother finds that his wife has been cheating on him as he spends the day tailing her. Paul and his pregnant wife Beatrice are also coming to the party. Paul is not overly happy he’s going to become a father.

Mutual Friends still_Michael Stahl David_Jennifer Lafleur

All plot threads in Mutual Friends ultimately lead to Liv’s surprise birthday party in her fairly large New York City apartment. A spectacular collision of unhappy and bitter people possibly with the wrong partner throw Liv’s party into chaos. I was worried for a few minutes into the movie that it would be filled with vapid and trite characters, as director Matthew Watts quickly throws us into Liv’s network of friends without much explanation or set-up. Mutual Friends finds a steady footing after its opening scenes, introducing us to each character in turn. It all pays off in a  funny and realistic final act as everything comes together nicely in a neat package.

Mutual Friends takes you by surprise with its sweetness, depicting a more genuine version of romance than we usually get from say romantic comedies. These are flawed people in flawed relationships. They want to love their significant other, but reality keeps getting in the way. Would they be better off with another person? The tangled web of their relationships will result in a memorable and even touching finale. It is a disarmingly simple story that succinctly reflects the intricate dance of dating and marriage for young couples in New York City.

Mutual Friends is a funny, well-acted movie that starts out fairly ordinary and grows on you. Its quirky but honest characters are sharply portrayed in a series of interlocking tales. More heart-felt and engaging than most indie rom-coms, the ensemble flick is definitely recommended.

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An enjoyable ensemble indie film with more heart than you might expect about faltering relationships and their romantic consequences.

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Mutual Friends is distributed by MVDvisual on DVD and home video. It runs 85 minutes and features brief nudity, coarse language and sexual situations. The unrated film would likely earn an R rating.

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