The other night, I watched, Me and You and Everyone We Know. And I loved it. But it is not a typical film, so as I went to write about it, I needed some help remembering what I had been thinking. So I went to Wikipedia where I found that the consensus is, “Miranda July’s debut feature is a charmingly offbeat and observant film about people looking for love.” Really?! That was not what I thought at all. But I often find myself in this position. Movie reviewers normally get press kits that tell them what films are about. This is why reviews often mention the same things about films and view them in the same way. I didn’t get the press kit.
Is Me and You and Everyone We Know about love? Well, sure. Every work of art is about love on one level or another. But what it is really all about is the rules that we create so that we can interact. And the film looks at this question in many different and highly creative ways. But ultimately, it paints a picture of life as very lonely because we see almost only the negotiation and not the continuity that it (hopefully) leads to.
The core of the film is found in a single scene. A father and daughter exit a fish store with a gold fish in a bag. But the father forgets the fish and drives off with the fish on top of the car. Christine (Miranda July) and Michael, an old man she is driving, notice it. She wants to alert the driver and Michael says no. If they do, he will stop quickly, throwing the fish on the ground, killing it. Michael says, “The best thing for that fish is if he could just drive steadily forever.” Yes, that would be best. But of course it is impossible. The car must stop. This is the question that the movie poses: do we continue on as we have in a suboptimal situation or do we risk hoping for something better.
Me and You and Everyone We Know is a film filled with incredibly brave characters. The two main characters are Christine and Richard (John Hawkes). Richard has just separated from his longtime wife. He works as a shoe salesman. He meets Christine when she brings in Michael to get a pair of shoes. Michael is unhappy because in the past salesmen took your feet and put them into the shoes. Richard explains that they are no longer able to do this. But he goes through what he can do, like hand Michael a shoehorn if he wants one. But above all, what he can do is touch the foot through the shoe to tell how it fits. These are the rules of engagement. They define the relationship. And Chistine and Richard spend the whole film negotiating those rules for their blossoming relationship.
But it isn’t just them. This issue is brought up again and again. For example, Christine happens to run into the curator at the modern art museum. She tries to give the curator a video sample of her work. The curator gives her a card and tells her to mail it. Christine responds that the address is where they are. The curator responds that it will get lost and it is better if she sends it. Christine replies, “But I’m so close.”
The film also deals with pedophilia, but not in ways that I’ve ever seen. One, that is unintentional, leads to what is probably the high point of the film—a truly magical moment that I won’t spoil by trying to explain. The other deals with the issue of an older man’s attraction to to a pair of flirty teen girls. There is nothing especially creepy about this; in most times and places these girls would be married off to men of his age. But he is very much aware of the law even if he is a bit slippery on our mores. So he sets up clear boundaries. The relationship will go nowhere, even if the girls are still too immature to realize that.
If this all makes the film seem episodic, that is no accident. The film has a strange kind of dramatic momentum, but it isn’t really going anywhere. It shows a number of people interacting. They are negotiating their relationships and they will continue to do so. They are like the goldfish on the roof the car. But they have some amount of control, if they choose to use it. And they do—as I said, they are brave. And the film does provide satisfying, if mostly murky conclusions.
Don’t be surprised if I write about this film again in a year. I know it’s going to be bouncing around in my mind a long time.