Hitting you immediately with a self-important voice over, you might first think that Dan Invited Hannah Over for Dinner is a documentary about first world problems. After all, as our pompous, British-accented raconteur informs us, Dan has just invited Hannah over for dinner, and boy is she fretting it. He probably wants to propose and Hannah’s just not ready for that kind of commitment. She’s a free-spirit—a modern woman who doesn’t want to worry about wedding invitations or name-changes or evil sister-in-laws. Her life is about personal space. More specifically, it’s about her.
Then, the film throws you an emotional curveball—Hannah’s list of worries nothing more than the buildup to a much more meaningful turn of events. Without spoiling too much, this is a film about being blindsided by life. It’s about coming to the shocking revelation that the world isn’t just about you—that your petulant problems are really not that meaningful at all. Yup, sometimes, life just comes out and smacks you across the face. It can be a jerk like that.
And, so, the film’s tongue-in-cheek tone quickly transitions into something with great emotional resonance. The viewer is taken on a similar journey as Hannah, forced into an uncomfortable situation—one that ultimately holds no satisfying resolution other than to quietly keep to yourself and eat your over-cooked carrots and fish. Both leads—Nika Mistruzzi as Hannah and Ryan Fisher as Dan—say a lot without saying much at all. Their facial expressions do the heavy lifting.
Director Patrick Lo shot the film over the course of three days (even managing to grab some guerilla-style subway footage in Toronto’s transit system). The film is a personal project of sorts—a way to cope with a similar event that happened with Lo and his family during a dinner conversation about 14 years ago. The characters may be different but the feelings behind them are certainly the same. As Lo states, “…instead of going to therapy, I just make films about myself through fictional characters. It costs about the same.”
Lo and his sister Rebecca run and interactive/video production studio out of Toronto called Cynical People. As for the next passion project? He’s currently working on an animated short film with puppeteering, miniature sets, and weird camera techniques. But, will there be a pompous British narrator? Well, one, can only hope.