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Sundance Awards awards have become noticeably devalued over the years, but Cannes is in more rarified territory. Me and You and Everyone We Know, a debut feature by writer/director Miranda July, won a special jury prize at Sundance in 2005, but it also shared the Camera d’Or at Cannes, so notice must be taken.
July is a versatile dynamo, having made her mark with short films, sound installations, multi-media performances, radio plays and short stories. Me and You and Everyone We Know is an impressionistic smorgasbord, an ensemble piece that links a diverse group of people in a series of loosely related episodes. At its center is Richard Swersey (John Hawkes), a shoe salesman who is separating from his wife. They have two sons, Peter (Miles Thompson), 14, and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), 7, who are ovbiously disoriented by their parents separation, but are not without initiative in finding other connections in their young lives. And there is Christine, played by July, a video artist who drives an "Eldercab" for a living and is drawn to Richard.
Other characters include a pair of teenage girls, determined to rather clinically explore their sexuality; a neighbor with a rich sexual fantasy life, a museum curator who embodies the pretensions (and insecurities) of her profession, a senior involved in the love affair of his life with a dying woman, an eleven year old girl precociously obsessed with her dowry and hope chest, and a goldfish surviving at great risk.
The film is a variegated mixture of whimsey, idealism, and reality. July’s fertile imagination fills it with incidents, many of which are charming and perceptive, some of which fall embarassingly flat. A theme emerges, albeit a broad one–people need to be connected; people reach out, often with great trepidation, in all sorts of ways.
If some moments are best quickly dropped from memory, others will happily linger, especially those involving young Robby, whose exploration of romance in an internet chat room handily trumps both Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail) and Patrick Marber (Closer). Brandon Ratliff, with the face of an angel and a dead-pan screen presence, ocassionally evokes Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann character. He doesn’t have many lines, but radiates charisma; he’s a star in the making.
Me and You and Everyone We Know mostly avoids "artsiness" as it explores some regular folks’ attempts to bridge the chasm of existential loneliness. The freshness of July’s vision is evident and welcome; the challenge for her future work is to sustain that vision and transform it to the screen with greater consistency.