Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Review: Me and You and Everyone We Know (out 19/8)

Me and...a shoe: John Hawkes in Me and You and Everyone We Know

Out of the Sundance Screenwriting and Filmmaking 2003 labs comes Me and You and Everyone We Know, directed by multi-media artist Miranda July. Dealing with the eternal theme of human interaction, July puts a contemporary spin on the topic. The result is a warm, sun-kissed, feel-good movie with no genre affiliation and a string of intelligent, funny episodes.

Me and You... is centred on Richard Swersey (John Hawkes), a newly-divorced shoe salesman and father of two boys, Robby and Peter (Brandon Ratcliff and Miles Thompson). Richard is a wiry, esoteric man in the Californian sense of the word. He has a wild-eyed Jesus Christ face and he wants life to amaze him - this translates, for example, into his burning his own hand at the beginning of the film while trying to entertain, or better, 'amaze', his sons. Christine (Miranda July) is an aspiring video-installation artist who earns a living as an 'Eldercab' chauffer. She starts hounding Richard after meeting him in the department store where he works on a shopping trip with a client. Meanwhile Richard's sons are on their own discovery journeys: the 14-year-old Peter becomes a subject of sexual experimentation in the hands of two neighbourhood girls while seven-year-old Robby is having a sexually-charged 'affair' on the internet.

Fortunately, the film never turns into a parallel narrative game where different strands of the story converge at the end. There are elements of that, as in the resolution of Robbie's internet affair, but July chose to simply weave together some small, 'insignificant' events and invest them with a thin layer of magic and poetry. July intelligently avoids any type of directorial bravado. As a multimedia artist, she seems to have chosen film as one choice among many. Unlike 'professional' film directors, she is not awe of the medium and its history. This apparently casual approach to film-making imparted Me and You… with lightness and accessibility.

Having said that, she did draw some fine performances from her cast, especially the children. In fact, part of the charm of Me and You... is the focus on children without the usual clich├ęs that mar a lot of similar works. The title also has a puerile ring to it. Special mentions should go to the non-moralising way July handled the seven-year-old Ratcliff internet romance, one of the best micro-stories in the movie. Carlie Westerman, who plays the unblinking Sylvie, has a strong screen presence, as if a 1,000-year-old person inhabited her 10 year-old tom-boyish frame. It's a very sweet film, but free of conservants and artificial flavourings.

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