Filmmaker and performance artist Miranda July has been hailed as the New Indie Queen by this month’s Empire magazine and having seen her wonderfully charming debut Me and You and Everyone We Know it is not difficult to see why. Made for just under a million dollars, the film has scooped accolades left, right and centre, including awards at Cannes and Sundance.
It opens with a heartfelt narration from lonely artist Christine, played by July herself, who is using the piece as part of her latest project. The scene switches to a disillusioned dad, Richard (John Hawkes) who is leaving his family following his marriage break-up. As a parting gesutre he sets fire to his hand in front of his two somewhat disinterested sons in a frustrating bid to make something happen.
The film then follows the unusual budding romance between these two characters who are both struggling to cope with their banal existences. The lives of the people who surround them in this white-picket suburban America, considerably less affluent than the Desperate Housewives stereotype, are beautifully entwined, forming gently amusing yet subtly touching sub-plots.
This is also a movie that scores high on laughs. Memorably comic moments include an internet chat room scene that makes Patrick Marber’s Closer look like a nursery rhyme. Richard’s sons, Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), spend unhealthy amounts of time at the computer and soon get caught up in a chat scenario with a mystery female looking for some action. Six-year old Robby’s “back and forth poop” suggestion leads to hilarious consequences.
Embarrassment is a strong theme running through this piece. But it is handled with great comic talent. Anyone reeling from a failed attempt to hook up with an object of desire should take comfort in this film. Christine’s cringeworthy efforts to get a date from single dad Richard verge on stalking at times but remind us that most of us have been there at times, if not with quite the same level of excruciating desperation.
The comedy is offset with a gentle beauty. The film is shot with a clear artistic vision and visually looks like an animated version of the stills of a very trendy photographic exhibition. It is all played out at a slow but never dull pace, allowing the imagery, emotion and atmosphere room to breathe.
In Me and You and Everyone We Know, July has created an off-the-wall exploration of humanity laced with humour and moments of poignancy. She has also put herself on the map as a name in filmmaking to watch out for in the future.