There are few romantic dramas more frustrating than the kind that studiously avoid clichéd characterizations while gracelessly begging viewers to alternately coo and tsk-tsk the behavior of their adult protagonists. Certainty, based on screenwriter Mike O'Malley's play Searching for Certainty, makes a point of establishing its two romantic leads as mature twentysomethings who, before marrying, have a serious crisis of faith. Dom (Tom Lipinski) and Deb (Adelaide Clemens) see each other in a new light while attending a pre-cana weekend retreat, a course the Catholic Church requires before agreeing to bless a couple's wedding. O'Malley's scenario unfortunately focuses too much on petty differences discovered during the retreat and not the underlying reasons why surly Dom isn't as close to the cherubic Deb as she'd like him to be. For example, because Dom is a lapsed Catholic and Deb is not, a shouting match concludes with him yelling at her, "What would Jesus do?!" The church is thankfully represented in a positive light by Father Heery (the ever-underused Giancarlo Esposito), an attentive priest who teaches Dom and Deb that a couple's love is never strong enough to sustain a marriage. But O'Malley and director Peter Askin make it too easy to dislike unyielding Dom and gasp with sympathy as doe-eyed Deb struggles to understand why he is not as enthusiastic as she is. Clemens's and Lipinski's equally stiff performances are also disappointing as they staunch the humor inherent in O'Malley's dialogue. Simon Abrams
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