There have been many memorable and entirely unique motion pictures to cross my path since I started writing film critiques. I can remember the feeling of watching "Happiness" for the first time and thinking of how brave Todd Solondz was for giving us such a disturbing and remarkable piece of cinema. I can remember breaking down into tears when I first saw "Imaginary Heroes" because it really connected with me on an emotional level. "Me and You and Everyone We Know" had the same kind of effect on me, but not to such an astonishing degree. Truthfully, I don't know what to think. It was either the more intelligent film I have ever seen, or just a jumbled up film with little story and even littler relevance. Thus far, I am leaning towards the former. Miranda July, who wrote, directed, and starred in the film, is obviously an upcoming force in Hollywood. This film proves that. She has a keen eye for those little moments that escape most directors. This could have easily been directed by Todd Solondz. It has the same look and feel as his films do, and I would imagine that both he and Miranda July subscribe to the same ideas of film-making and emotional connection. "Me You and Everyone We Know" touched me in a weird way, and it is certainly a remarkable experience.
At the center of this tale is a bizarre and slow moving love story. Richard Swersey (John Hawkes) has just separated from his wife and has moved into a small apartment with his two biracial children. He works at a local shoe store. For someone stuck in such a rut, he is highly intelligent and far wiser than his appearance would indicate. His first action in the film is to set his hand on fire. Christine Jesperson (Miranda July) is a struggling performance artist who also runs a service called Elder Cab. She is quiet, yet eccentric, and really has an impact on the people she meets. She is like Napoleon Dynamite meets Debra Winger. The two meet, by chance, at the shoe store and slowly start developing a relationship. That is the primary story. However, there are numerous supporting characters that get their moment to shine. Carlie Westerman stars as Sylvie, a little girl in the neighborhood who keeps a hope chest containing her dowry, of all things. Natasha Slayton and Najarra Townsend are two young girls who strike up a window relationship with a guy who lives on their road. And, Brandon Ratcliff is Robby, Richard's son who is much wiser than his years would indicate. He starts an internet relationship with a woman based on "poop" and "back and forth" - you will have to watch the film to understand. All of these minor stories interweave as Richard and Christine move ever closer to that moment when we know everything is all going to work out. This film does have a happy ending, likely for everyone involved, and that is a good thing.
The best way to describe this film would be a series of unrelated scenes, with the same characters. Somehow, they all seem to fit together, but each scene would work as a stand alone piece. One of the opening scenes involves Christine and one of her Elder Cab riders witnessing an incident with a mini-van and a goldfish. Their reaction to the situation is unusual, spontaneous, and totally moving. Never have we been so heartbroken at the untimely death of a goldfish. There is another scene where the two local girls decide to practice their oral sex, just to see who is better. Normally, this would seem a little extreme for a simple little film like this one. Here, it seems logical, and the act itself does not seem bad at all - it seems sweet and innocent. In addition, what could be construed as a pedophilia between the two girls and the guy they meet, is really something altogether different. He knows they are underage and would never act on his desires, but he never denies that those desires are there, especially when he begins to post signs in his window, answering all of the questions the girls might have. This film was amazing in the way it used these little vignettes to create this feeling of quirkiness - this feeling of privacy between the audience and the characters.
In regards to the performances, there is nothing in this film that really leaps out as awe inspiring or overly exceptional, though they are. These are simple, maintained, performances that come at you from many different directions. John Hawkes and Miranda July have this awkward chemistry that lets you know how right they are for one another, and their performances echo those feelings. Miranda July really is the female Napoleon Dynamite, though far more likable and believable. Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff were wonderful as Richard's two sons, especially Ratcliff, who handles most of the loftier emotional scenes in the film, with very little dialogue. The scene between he and his internet friend is sweet, and intelligent, and totally appropriate. All of the performances were so simple that it made me forget these people were actors. That might lend to the fact that most of them have very little acting experience. I liked that feeling. I enjoyed being swept into the stories and never thinking about which film I had seen so and so in, and which roles they would be appropriate for. "Me and You and Everyone We Know" sinks in slowly to your subconscious and grabs ahold.
When a film like this comes along, you want to check it out. You will never see another film like it. You might see a Todd Solondz film and get the same feeling, but they will be worlds apart. Whereas Solondz' films tend to be darker and sometimes possess a nasty undertone, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" does not have a nasty or ill-tempered bone in its cinematic body. If you go in with an open mind, you'll come out with an open heart. This was certainly the most unusual and unexpected films I have seen all year, and it could wind up making my list. The more and more I think about it, the more and more I admire it. That is typically a good thing. "Me and You and Everyone We Know" is probably not playing anywhere near you, so you're going to have to be adventurous and travel outside your area to find it. It will be well worth the drive, even with gas prices the way they are. I would have paid $30.00 for this ticket.