“Soulmates” is a 2021 Romantic Comedy film written by and starring Stephanie Lynn and Alexandra Case and directed by Timothy Armstrong. Notably, “Soulmates” was filmed entirely in Vermont, and its two writer-stars are both Vermont native actresses.
The plot is about two best friends, Jessamine and Samantha, living in Vermont. Samantha is an aspiring journalist involved in Vermont’s environmental activism scene, while Jessamine works on her family farm, but secretly wants to pursue a career in music. When Jessamine meets and quickly falls in love with Landon, who the pair later finds out works for Peterson Maple, a corporation working to take over Vermont’s syrup industry, a conflict begins to brew: Jess wants to stay with her beau, while Samantha gets more radical.
While the story may at first seem only two steps removed from Hallmark films, it is well-made. The plot is quite intricate, and there are a few brilliant comedic beats. While Landon, played by Mark Famiglietti, comes off a little sleazy, he is ultimately a well-written love interest who makes mistakes but redeems himself for them. It behooves any film made in Vermont to include Rusty De Wees, a longstanding figure in the Vermont film scene, and his appearance as the kindly store owner is perfect. There is also an unexpected cameo appearance from a man who appears to be Werewolves Within director and former CollegeHumor cast member Josh Ruben, though he is not listed in the credits. The film ultimately presents a believable and, at times, gut-bustingly funny rom-com, while the local flavor of Vermont-ism leaves a little to be desired.
At times, the film seems like an outsider’s idea of what Vermont is. The film often speaks of Vermont being “a few decades behind.” That is true to a certain extent, but not to the point of our protagonists laughing at Landon when he suggests renting a film online. And a few unfunny jokes about the lead best friendship being confused for a romantic relationship occur, which would be bad in a mainstream Hollywood film, but just seem wrong in this Vermont-made film.
The film’s environmentalist message is odd, and strangely pro-corporate. The motivation of the anti-Peterson protest at the beginning of the film seems to be more xenophobia against “flatlanders” than actual justified criticism. The film seems to be against Samantha’s, and by extension most other Vermonters’, suspicion of Peterson, despite the long history of corporate environmental abuse. Even when the film briefly turns against Peterson Maple, a simple article written by Samantha corrects everything, and from there on out, Peterson seems to be welcomed into the fabric of Vermont.
One particularly offensive moment occurs near the beginning of the film when Jess and Sam are talking about how all of these warm spells mean that there are no good winters anymore. A clear allusion to climate change, a phenomenon caused almost entirely by wasteful practices from large corporations, and yet nothing comes of it. In a movie that didn’t have such a clear sense of foreshadowing and Chekhov’s Gun in other elements, this would be just odd, but in this film, it’s almost infuriating.
If you can compartmentalize the pro-corporate themes of this film, you are going to have a very good rom-com. But if you can’t, I would not recommend Soulmates.