Weekly Watch: ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’
Allie Tollaksen | Monday, November 17, 2014
The 2005 film was the writing and directorial debut of artist and filmmaker Miranda July, and with its relatively unknown cast and microbudget, “Me and You and Everyone We Know” did surprisingly well with critics and the box office. Rogert Ebert even named it among the top five films of the decade, and it won awards at both Sundance and Cannes.
“Me and You and Everyone We Know” centers on Christine, an eccentric visual artist who works as a driver for elderly people to pay the bills. The story begins as she meets Richard, a newly-single shoe salesman with two children, but rather than simply be a love story between the two curious characters, the film incorporates subplots involving Richard’s sons and the family’s neighbors, co-workers, clients and classmates.
The lives of these characters, who range in age from five to 70, become intertwined in unconventional, inappropriate and sometimes alarming ways. Still, these characters have one thing in common — a desire to connect with someone, anyone else.
The ways in which they connect is as interesting as the cast itself. Rather than simply be a criticism of the remoteness technology provides — which the film could have easily been — July instead explores all the ways in which people reach out, successfully and unsuccessfully, in the search for love or friendship.
July incorporates conflicting messages about email and digital messaging, making the story rich and thought provoking. In one subplot, a small boy and grown woman engage in strange and sometimes X-rated anonymous messaging. Meanwhile, another subplot follows a grown man who knows he cannot engage with the two teenage girls who pass by his apartment, so instead he leaves “anonymous” X-rated messages to them via hand-written signs in his window.
This juxtaposition shows that the desire for intimacy and the ability to communicate those desires remotely can exist without the Internet. Instead, the digital age is just another symptom of the conflicting desires of all people: the fear of others — of contamination and consequences — and the need for genuine human connection.
In the last 10 years, July has expanded on these themes of connection in the digital age. Her email project, “We Think Alone,” was a weekly email newsletter composed of emails from the depths of various celebrities’ and artists’ inboxes, all centered on a certain theme each week. The result was a blending of the public and the private, the intimate and the remote, allowing readers to see how these public figures interact in their private lives, all whilst keeping in the email medium.
Another recent project of July’s is the creation of a phone app that allows people to communicate with each other, but only through face-to-face interaction of a nearby neighbor. That means that if you want to send someone a text message, for example, it is instead sent to someone nearby using the app. Then, the recipient is expected to pass on the message in real life to its final, intended destination.
While July’s first film only begins to touch on these themes of isolation and connection in the 21st century, the film is a unique, bizarre and oddly charming take on contemporary love and friendship. A precursor to the boom of Facebook, Twitter and smartphones, “Me and You and Everyone We Know” takes a quirky and creative look at how emerging technology does (and, maybe more importantly, doesn’t) change the way we feel about and interact with each other.