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Judge Bryan Byun's Blog

• Location: Albuquerque, NM
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))<>(( : Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
August 1st, 2005 2:51AM

After giving my skull a good scouring out with the brain enema that is Michael Bay's The Island, I figured I was due for a refill, and Me and You and Everyone We Know, the current indie "It" movie that wowed 'em in Cannes and Sundance, seemed like a good candidate for the job.

The best compliment I can give a movie (or rather, a non-horror movie) is that I didn't want it to end, and at the end of Me and You's 90 minutes, I could have happily sat through another 90 -- and that's saying a lot, coming from someone who went in with more than a little skepticism, and who, I have to admit, didn't really want to like this film to begin with. There's a certain kind of "small" film -- painfully self-conscious, wincingly precious, desperately quirky -- that I've lately come to loathe and avoid whenever possible, ever since Natalie Portman's hamster funeral in Garden State. I'm not against indie cinema, but too many of these passionate young writer-directors don't seem to recognize the thin line between self-honesty and self-pity. Me and You bears every indication of falling into that group: an ensemble comedy-drama about "regular" people struggling to connect and to overcome their fears of connection, Me and You reminds me of the kind of film Todd Solondz might make, if he didn't hate people so much.

That essential lack of misanthropy is what elevates Me and You and Everyone We Know from just another mopey ode to dysfunctional losers to a poetic and resolutely humane portrait of humanity at its most vulnerable. Richard (John Hawkes, who played the oddball motel manager in Identity) is a recently-separated father of two boys (Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff, who practically steal the movie) and works a humdrum job as a shoe salesman in a department store; July plays Christine, a wanna-be video artist who shares a "meet-cute" moment with Richard that goes painfully awry. There are other characters, with their own funny, uncomfortable, perhaps shocking subplots, and what unites them is their fundamental loneliness and confusion. What the film is about, ultimately, is the fact that, in a world that is more intimately interconnected than at any time in history, we are more disconnected and isolated than we have ever been. Which isn't a new concept, but what does intrigue me is July's suggestion that the Internet didn't create that disconnection, but enabled it, by giving us a way to touch each other without really touching, without having to reveal too much of ourselves. If the walls we create between ourselves and the world didn't exist, we'd have to invent them.

Hawkes, with his big, bewildered eyes and vulpine face, is the least likely leading man I could imagine; Richard is the kind of guy we encounter every day and discount as just another ordinary schlub. And he is an ordinary schlub; his thoughts, actions, and quirks are those of any ordinary person, just not the kind that we tend to meet in movies, where people are either 100% plain vanilla nothings or Lord Byron in a McDonald's uniform. Watching Me and You, I don't get the feeling that I'm watching some writer-director's manifesto, but that we're getting the fruits of a carefully observant artist's glimpses into people's inner lives, which are so much richer and stranger than we give them credit for, even as we marvel at our own private epiphanies.

Me and You is a little ragged around the edges; it avoids the more overt kinds of sentimentality, but it asks for a certain amount of emotional generosity from its audience. It's quirky, but not in that noxious, smug manner that marks so many films of this type. And every time you start to think that it's getting a wee bit too cute, there's a moment of startlingly accurate, unexpected truth. There's a line in Me and You (the subject line of this blog entry is an allusion to that line), delivered by a child, that's so shocking and yet so true, in a way that's undefinable and buried deep within our childhoods, that I'd be very surprised if July didn't get it from a real kid.

Many of the reviews for this film give away far too much of the story. I advise anyone even remotely curious about Me and You and Everyone We Know to just go see it, and avoid spoilers; this is a film that is best experienced a moment at a time, just like life.

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