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In 'Echo Park,' a romance plays out with an L.A. backdrop

In 'Echo Park,' a romance plays out with an L.A. backdrop
Anthony Okungbowa's and Mamie Gummer’s characters fall in love in the L.A. enclave. (Echo Park Film / Array Releasing)

Absconding from dreary domestic ennui in Beverly Hills, Sophie (Mamie Gummer) moves to the eponymous, hip, happening neighborhood in "Echo Park." A meet-cute with the overtly friendly Alex (Anthony Okungbowa) over a furniture purchase establishes their mutual affinity for Prince rarities on wax. The courtship escalates quickly without a hint of cynicism or irony, though he won't put the moves on her until she makes the first one. Scribe Catalina Aguilar Mastretta then sets the countdown clock on the romance, with Alex's impending relocation overseas instead of the more typical terminal illness.

Though its treatments of practical concerns and color-blind approach to the interracial relationship seem improbably simplistic, the film's ideals of a respectful, caring suitor and a diverse utopian community with a chill vibe don't necessarily register as an escapist fantasy. They provide stark contrast to the keeping-up-appearances lifestyle that Sophie apparently can't leave too far behind. For once, a woman's self-fulfillment is the top item on a movie's agenda.

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Mastretta does beautifully realize the fluidity and messiness of coupling. Even with a tight-knit community as social safety net, some people still relapse into dysfunctional codependency. It is only then that the characters — and by extension, we moviegoers — gain an appreciation of the difficulty of forging and maintaining meaningful connections.

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'Echo Park'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles

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