Thursday, August 11, 2005

Yes & Me and You and Everyone We Know

I've been meaning to sit down and write about these films for what seems like ages. Actually, I've had this post sitting on my desktop for weeks and have just never managed to sit down and finish it. But I have been wanting to point out these small independent summer films, because they'll slip beneath the radar of most people. But Yes and You and Me and Everyone We Know may be among the best and most refreshingly original films I've seen this year.


I have been eagerly awaiting this film since reading reviews of it from the 2004 Toronto film festival. Yes is the most recent film from Sally Potter (Orlando, The Tango Lesson) and although I haven't found a strong personal connection with her films in the past, but they are so unique in outlook and innovative that I try not to miss them.

But Yes poses a bit of a problem as far as describing it as there is absolutely nothing I can compare it to. It is a romantic, mature, erotic, unapologetically political, definitely a post 9/11 film, and the dialog is delivered in iambic pentameter. That said, I can easily say that I’ve never seen anything like it. The dialog took a little bit to get the hang of, not because it was difficult, but because I kept getting lulled into the rhythm of the words without really grasping their meaning, but once I adapted, I was struck by the immense power of having the characters speak in poetry as it gave their words so much power and allowed the film to transcend into the realm of art. Even strings of profanity were given a poetic weight that was beautiful and fascinating. This film was a delight to listen to.

She (Joan Allen) is an Irish/American in a loveless marriage to a British politician (Sam Neill). She meets He (Simon Abkarian) at a party and they soon become lovers. He has left his life as a surgeon in Lebanon after saving a man’s life only to watch him murdered and thus has fled to England where he works in a restaurant, using his skills with a knife to chop vegetables instead of saving lives. He and She’s romance is colored by maturity, joy and laughter, but is also impacted by their very different backgrounds and beliefs. There is a heart wrenching moment in the film where He talks about being Muslim and how he has had to adapt to living in another culture and culture where no one, not even She, can utter a single word of his language or knows anything about his faith and culture.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Yes is the inclusion of the cleaning women in many of the scenes that are present only to tidy up the things of the wealthy and more privileged. Yes opens and ends with The Cleaner (Shriley Henderson) commenting on the human debris left behind by her employers and how it is impossible to clean away all of life’s dirt while knowingly watching her employer’s entanglements. It provided a fascinating prospective, this inclusion of the cleaners, watching the people they work for knowingly throughout the film.

You and Me and Everyone We Know is a very different film from Yes, but no less poetic and original. Miranda July stars and directs this truly wonderful and charming film about human connections.

What struck me most about You and Me and Everyone We Know was the profound innocence and optimism of the film. Christine (July) is a video artist who pays the bills by driving those who are too old to drive. When at a shoe store, she has a instant connection to a shoe salesman, Richard (John Hawkes) who appears to match Christine in quirkiness and a shared sense of isolation. One of the most powerful scenes is when Christine and Richard walk a block together and compare the distance they travel to a relationship, that will reach it’s end when they reach the upcoming intersection. They debate the nature of the relationship and decide that they are walking an entire lifetime spent together and their disappointment is so apparent when they reach the intersection and need to part to go their separate ways.

Many of the other characters of Me and You and Everyone We Know are children, but these children are not typical movie kids. These kids are delightfully innocent and wise and their experiences and there were a lot of parallels between my own concept of childhood and these stories. There are the brothers who spend their time creating ascii art and chatting with strangers on adult message boards. There's the little girl who is collecting timeless pieces for her hope chest. And then there are the the teenaged girls who flirt with an adult neighbor who leaves dirty messages for them to find. In another world that isn't Miranda July's, one could imagine terrible things happening to these innocent children because the world often isn't very kind or forgiving, but in July's world their innocence is protected and no harm comes to them. It also has them exploring sex and human connections in such a refreshing way and this film isn't shocked or troubled by their curiosity.

You and Me and Everyone We Know is a truly original and charming film. It has humor and sadness, a dash or romance and some wonderful insights. Miranda July is absolutely adorable in her geeky vintage clothing and this film has wonderful moments like when Christine helps Richard hang a framed picture of a bird in a tree, in a tree.

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