Me And You And Everyone We Know (2005)

Me And You And Everyone We Know first published by EyeforFilm

Guy meets girl, sparks fly, and, after the intervention of various disruptions and impediments, finally guy and girl get together. What sounds like the convention-bound plotting of just about any romantic comedy (a genre second only to porn in its fantasy-fuelled predictability) becomes, in performance artist Miranda July’s feature debut as writer/director (and film star) something far more satisfyingly contemplative.

The guy is Richard Swersey (John Hawkes), a hippy shoe salesman. The girl is Christine Jesperson (Miranda July), aspiring solo video artist and chauffeur for the elderly. Swept off her feet and cured of her blisters by Richard’s earnestly existential sales patter, she tries to reach out to the new object of her affection with some kooky performance stalking, but he is not quite ready for her yet, as a recent separation from his wife (JoNell Kennedy) has left him quite literally scarred and struggling to redefine a relationship with his young sons, teenage Peter (Miles Thompson) and six-year-old Robby (Brandon Ratcliff).

The boys spend their time on the computer, either designing abstract digital representations of human interrelationships, or posting ingenuously scatological messages in anonymous sex chatrooms. Their new neighbour’s daughter Sylvie (Carlie Westerman) is too busy planning marriage and maternity to enjoy her childhood, while the older local schoolgirls Heather (Natasha Slayton) and Rebecca (Najarra Townsend) are testing the limits of their friendship and sexuality by fuelling the fantasies of Richard’s adult work colleague Andrew (Brad William Henke). Meanwhile Nancy (Tracy Wright), the standoffish director of the local art gallery, dares (twice) to get closer to people and Christine’s elderly client Michael (Hector Elias) wonders why it took him so many decades to find the love of his life.

Me And You And Everyone We Know is a multi-layered piece, whose many characters are united by a common striving to free themselves from their isolation and to make contact, however fleeting or mediated, with others. Flirting with the strange connections between fantasy and reality, sex and intimacy, art and life, the film ends up being as all embracing as its title suggests, without ever seeming trite or shallow. July’s screenplay zeroes in on minute details with a quirky intelligence that always keeps a far bigger picture in sight, so that two people who happen to walk down the same street, or a goldfish in a plastic bag that is accidentally left on the roof of a car, can quickly transform themselves into striking metaphors for love, loneliness, faith and the teleology of human relations.

Performed by an engaging ensemble of bewildered dreamers, the film is at times funny and at others provocative, especially in its taboo-breaking frankness with regards to children’s sexuality, but mostly it is filled with the kind of awe at the possibilities of life that only a child, or an artist, feels – an awe which, through some indefinable alchemical process masterminded by July, becomes highly infectious.

Like Christine’s wacky artworks, or Richard’s flawed rituals, July’s enthralling film breaks through its own whimsical stylisation to touch you in unexpected and mysterious ways.

© Anton Bitel