"Me and You and Everyone We Know"Written and Directed by Miranda July Wih Miranda July, John Hawkes
"Me and You and Everyone We Know," is a quietly brilliant film that sidesteps cinematic convention to evoke a genuine emotional response.
Writer, director, and actress Miranda July plays Christine, an undiscovered Los Angeles artist nursing a bevy of idiosyncrasies. While moonlighting as a driver for the elderly she meets Richard, played by John Hawkes, an odd yet likeable shoe salesman dealing with the breakup of his marriage. His awkward charm takes Christine by surprise and they begin a touch-and-go game of attraction.
The story unfolds in a series of vignettes that expands to include Richard's precocious sons, Peter and Robby, and a branching network of friends and neighbors, each equally quirky in their fashion. The clipped narratives and carefully crafted visual poetry of these scenes are an extension of the sensibility July developed as a video performance artist and, as a result, could stand on their own. They are, however, pieces in a skillfully constructed mosaic; the overarching theme of which is the persistence of love and friendship in the digital age.
Perhaps because of Christine's quirkiness and the film's obvious artistic underpinnings, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" exudes a sort of awestruck geek sensitivity that I found to be slightly annoying at first. Giving the film a few minutes, I realized that this naiveté is merely a camouflage for the clever clockworks beneath. As the whimsical slices-of-life tighten into a story, July introduces elements deftly designed to challenge the audience. In a scene where 8 year old Robby chats online with an anonymous pervert, his typed responses completely derail the viewer's expectations; not quite defusing the unease that the situation raises but somehow managing to highlight its absurdity while offering a sly commentary on the isolation of cyber-sex. An equally delicate balance is struck when Peter, the older son, is sexually initiated by two teenage girls. The scene is at once uncomfortable, humorous, and oddly touching. That Miranda July shows us these moments and treats them with warmth and understanding is a testament to her relevancy and her bravery.
By the time the film ends, it will have touched on human attraction from its young beginnings to its waning twilight. Summing this up thematically is a simple conversation between Christine and Richard as they walk a block's length contemplating the timeline of relationships. The scene probably took less than ten minutes to shoot and cost as much as the film it was shot on, but it's one of the loveliest moments you'll ever encounter on the big or small screen.
Even with July's impressive vision guiding its course, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" wouldn't be the gem it is without its highly talented cast. John Hawkes' depiction of Richard's emotional drifting is achingly accurate and Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff, playing Peter and Robby, come very close to stealing the show. Even the bit players that fill out the smaller roles are likeable and utterly convincing. Finally, Ms. July proves herself worthy of the title auteur by acting as well as she writes and directs. In a scene when Richard tells her to get out of his car, the disappointment in her eyes creates an emotional gravity that the dialogue only hints at.
While July finds many ways to illustrate the struggle of love in the age of aids and cyber-sex, she steers clear of a strident tone. In place of a proclamation she offers an entertaining and believable story of people fitting their lives around modernity. Ultimately, the film's message is one of hope, with the basic human need to seek comfort in others bypassing the newly created obstacles in its path.