Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know could perhaps best be described as the indie version of Love Actually; it too uses small, interconnecting stories to capture a moment in time. But, unlike Love Actually, Me and You is not a who’s who of cinema, with the only slightly familiar face belonging to John Hawkes who one might recognise from Winter’s Bone or The Sessions. In 2005, however he was recent divorcee Richard, who becomes the subject of Christine (Miranda July)’s affections. What is special about this film is its honest portrayal of current human experience; Me and You is a film in which the characters are unexceptional but still feel, and indeed are, unique. Their stories aren’t blockbusters; they are small, but carry weight.
In an interview with About Entertainment July explains that the first thing she wanted her film to have was an ensemble cast because it would give her the freedom to “come up with any number of things”. She goes further to explain that she did not want to have a defined plot as she had “no idea how to write a screenplay”. This explains the film’s bits-and-pieces structure, but also why it works; rather than focus on action, July tried to create “a space where I could just keep writing stuff every day, based on what I was feeling that day”. This appears to have given the film a strong overall tone as well as a delicate cohesion, because the characters are all partially representative of different sides of July herself. The actors, even the younger cast members, are able to perfectly embody these different personae, which is the key to the film’s success. Stylistically, July walks a tightrope between off-putting quirkiness and pretension. Each of her actors are able to bring the characters to life in a very believable way which keeps July’s story accessible.
The film’s tone, more than anything, has the power to both delight and shock audiences, because it is both twee and bold. July stated in Bomb Magazine that she is “interested in seeing different types of people together,” and also believes that children can be treated as real characters and have more knowledge than is often credited to them. This can lead to some potentially controversial interactions. Heather (Natasha Slayton) and Rebecca (Najarra Townsend) are the gleeful recipients of the explicit notes Andrew (Brad William Henke) sticks on his window, one of which leads to them each giving Peter (Miles Thompson) a blowjob. July contextualises these incidences well, though in doing so acknowledges truths that some might take issue with. Though both Heather and Rebecca are underage, they are sexually curious, and they do encourage Andrew’s behaviour. In the global context of rape culture, Heather and Rebecca’s actions are inconvenient as they are challenging the idea that children are innocent and require protection from sexual scenarios. July walks this tightrope by the way she shows Andrew reacting to the girls. He isn’t a model example; he still partially indulges in his fantasy by posting the notes but, when given the opportunity, he doesn’t physically engage with the girls. It is an important social commentary, executed in a non-judgmental way.
Innocence however is very much present in Robbie (Brandon Ratcliff)’s chatroom conversation. Being only six, Robbie has a very vague understanding of sex, and his replies are a combination of copy-and-pasting and whatever pops into his head, the gem being sharing ‘poop’ with someone. As mental as it sounds, there is definitely something intimate about Robbie’s idea, as his correspondent finds out. In the wider context of the film, it is hard to tell if ‘pooping back and forth’ is meant to be taken as the rambling of a child or not, but it does make the character of his correspondent seem sad and strange – just like many of the characters in the film.
It is this sadness that July captures so well, and it feels like she is portraying a vulnerability and an oddness that is common but seldom recognised. This is also entwined with a longing, a longing for something different, or for someone who understands, but in a passive way. Richard says “I want my children to have special powers. I’m prepared for amazing things to happen”, but he doesn’t do anything. There is no action. Similarly, Sylvie (Carlie Westerman), a well-spoken ten-year-old, is preparing for when she gets married and has a daughter by spending her money and Christmas wishes on household appliances for her ‘hope chest’. Both characters are ‘prepared’, but in doing so, they are not enjoying where they are now. For Richard, that may well be exactly where he’ll stay. Contentment is not a defining characteristic of mainstream life, and it is this that July is drawing attention to.
Sylvie’s character is also the most obvious example of a trope seen throughout the film: that the children are more adult and the adults are more childish. Not uncommon in films, and often being an easy laugh (think Chloë Grace Moretz in (500) Days of Summer), July instead uses this to break down the societal expectations of the different groups – and not in a ‘quirky’ way, but a way that’s realistic and relatable. Taken at face value Me and You could be seen as a quirky indie film about odd people doing odd stuff. That assessment isn’t far wrong, but the film is much better constructed and acted than it suggests; it is not just odd for the sake of it. In drawing attention to strangeness, July has made a film very much about current attitudes towards life; we are all special, and we are all wanting something more and better, but we wait instead of doing – we are mostly “just passing time.”