A video artist and cab driver for elderly people is looking for love using the most unusual methods; a divorced shoe salesman struggling to connect with his sons while being prepared for “amazing things” to happen in his life; a co-worker of the shoe salesman flirts with neighborhood girls using dirty messages on his living room window; a boy has an Internet romance with a stranger and his brother becomes the guinea pig for neighborhood girls wishing to practice their future romance and marriage. All kinds of stuff is happening, all of it strangely fascinating.
Let me find the words
How could I possibly describe a strange and unique movie such as Me and You and Everyone We Know. Right now, the word that keeps coming to my mind is art. I was once a student of art and I guess that I still do some art stuff from time to time. But I got sick of the art world and its institutionalized phoniness, its cryptic and bureaucratic crass. People who like to complain about modern art will understand what I’m talking about. All that crap makes it easy to forget that art is not just about purely aesthetic explorations, grant applications, tax evasion or sophisticated whining. When done right, art can communicate things and reach deep into your soul like nothing else. That’s true even for weird art that you may not understand or even particularly like or enjoy (my own novel "La Boue" being a good example of this, apparently).
This movie has a sensitivity unlike much of what we can find in mainstream media. This is due in part because art in various form is very present in the movie, from modern art to computer ASCII art, installation art or whimsical performance art spontaneously performed by characters not even aware that this is actually what they are doing. These modes of expression are all a form of ritual where the ordinary can become extraordinary and profound, enabling people to create very special connections with each other or even simply with some part of themselves.
With art out of the way, two other words can now make themselves heard: soft and intense. With its slow pace, moody music and delicate interpretations, this movie is pure softness. However, this deceptively delicate movie manages to pack incredibly intense moments in pretty much every scenes. A memorable example is when Christine, the video artist, notices a goldfish in a bag hanging precariously on a moving car nest to her own. She and her elderly cab client quickly realize that the fish can only survive as long as the other car keeps a steady speed. They then try to help the fish by keeping the other car from accelerating all the wile keeping a running commentary/dialog with the fish that is both moving and heartbreaking. Profound emotional turmoil and elation from very seemingly very mundane situations is what this movie delivers over and over again. (See this scene on YouTube).
And last, now that other words have had their say, funny can come to the fore. This movie can wring a lot of different and conflicting emotions out of you, but funny will somehow keep coming back again and again. This is not the kind of funny we’re used to. This is a very offbeat, oblique, sense of humor that will creep on you and hit you when you least expect it and from the most unlikely material. Because of this, the story gets away with subject matters that would otherwise make anyone’s blood curd, such as death, sexual predation, immolation, loneliness, underage promiscuity and modern art. But somehow, just as you were expecting the worst, Miranda’s amazing writing and vision takes a potentially awful situation and makes it life affirming, deeply moving and, well, very funny. For instance, the “Macaroni” running gag and the iconic “))<>(( Forever” ASCII art have the potential of becoming cult expressions. Believe me, this can only make sense if you see the movie, but these expression may very well haunt you and make you smile for the rest of your life.
A unique artistic vision
Miranda July is a multi-talented artist and Me and You and Everyone We Know is her first feature-length movie. She wrote and directed the film as well as act the part of Christine, the video artist. Checking out her blog and other far-out projects, one can see how she imbues everything she does with her very particular vision and sensibilities. Even her websites smack of simplicity and originality. For instance, the promotional website for her collection of short stories No one belongs here more than you was made entirely from snapshots of text written on a fridge (and eventually the top of an oven rage) with a black marker. Webmasters may marvel at her use of full-screen images and learn from its extremely simple but effective navigation.
In short, Me and You and Everyone We Know is a wonder well worth discovering and this is true as well as for it fascinating author.