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Retro-mad film review: Imagine Me and You (UK, 2005)

The story:

3 imagine-me-and-you-dvd-poster1Bride-to-be Rachel (Piper Perabo) is about to get married to soon-to-be-husband Heck (Matthew Goode). The movie opens with the usual excitement and chaos of a wedding about to happen – there is much flurry and activity as the excited bride, family and wedding entourage prepare for the wedding. On the surface, it seems like nothing can go wrong: the couple has been together since college, they were best friends and lovers and had been living together for years before they decided to get married. They have a rock-solid relationship. They are both stable, successful professionals and are ready t0 start a new life together. But while walking down the aisle, Rachel locks eyes with a gorgeous stranger, Luce (Lena Headey),  about to walk out of the church and, though Rachel goes through with the wedding, her life has already changed.

It turns out that Luce is the florist. Rachel’s younger sister, H (Boo Jackson) has taken a liking to the florist, and Heck’s bestman, the perpetually lecherous Cooper (Darren Boyd) fancies her and so the florist ends up staying a bit longer at the wedding reception than is necessary. Luce is (surprise, surprise) a workaholic with a non-existent love life (as evidenced by hilarious best friend Edie, played by Eva Birthistle telling her, “You need a love life!” to which she replies, “I have a like life, it suits me fine”.), but for some strange reason, she remains at the reception anyway, introduces herself to the bride, dances with the younger sister and with Cooper before leaving. The story would have ended there, except a few months later, Rachel comes to Luce’s flower shop and invites her to dinner. Unbeknownst to Luce, Rachel has arranged for Cooper to come as well, setting the stage for a better awkward double dinner date, especially when Luce comes out to Heck as a lesbian.

This is where the story really begins. Rachel and Heck’s life are perfect. 5 piper pensiveToo perfect, in fact. But beneath this seeming perfection lies a dissatisfaction, based on a relationship that has gone on too long, where the excitement and romance has long gone, and only a comfortable friendship remains. This is seen in Rachel’s defensiveness in an argument with Luce at the dinner table, about whether love at first sight is possible or not. Luce believes in it, but Rachel does not, and finds offense at the insinuation that she and Heck have just settled in their relationship and lack romance in it. But the truth is, there is trouble in their perfect paradise: work consumes both of them, their sex life is lackluster and their life together is just bland. When Rachel finds out that Luce is gay during a trip to the supermarket (where they bump into Luce and bestfriend Edie, in a funny exchange where Heck asks if Edie is gay, and Edie answers back, “Am I gay?!? I’m ecstatic!”), this changes everything for Rachel. Rachel is subtly attracted to Luce, but is aware of the consequences of this should she act on it. So she tries to avoid Luce, but always ends up bumping into or spending time with her – during her younger sister’s school presentation, during a festival and a soccer (football for UK fans) match. Luce is evasive as well, but the more they resist, the more they seem to be drawn together. The tentative moments they have in their scenes together, when both exhibit shyness, apprehension, restraint and whole other mixture of feelings, are exhilirating moments in the film. It calls to mind pre-millenial rom-coms, when they weren’t just manufactured by the dozen in Hollywood.  This is mostly Rachel’s journey, and it is a subtle one. Rachel struggles with her feelings, and tries her best to rekindle the romance with her husband, but at the same time, wonders about her own feelings for Luce. This is manifested in her sudden interest in lesbian porn (not in a eeww kind of way, but in an innocent, cute way), in her endless questions to her colleagues and friends (She asks them random questions such as, “Do you believe in love at first sight?” and “Have you ever thought of dating another woman?”) and in discussions with her husband and family. This eventually comes to a head when she confronts Luce with it, and she realizes that she has, quite irrevocably and inexplicably, fallen in love with the florist. She refuses to give in to her feelings though, and decides to stay with Heck. In the end, it is Heck who finally decides that they shouldn’t be together, because more than loving him, what he cannot take is her loving somebody else more. In the end, Rachel ends up with Luce and it is a happy ending for everyone.

4 piper lenaWhat is not to like about this feel-good romantic comedy? ^^ I believe that it could well be the first well-written, lesbian romantic comedy with good production values (cinematography, acting, etc.). Sure, we’ve had “When Night is Falling” and “The Incredibly True Adventure”, but these films are hardcore indie films – and it sometimes shows in the films. What “Imagine Me and You” gives us is a lesbian film that finally has  a happy ending. That it was written and directed by a straight bloke, Ol Parker, a kind of love letter to his wife, actor Thandie Newton, is beside the point. As compared to the hysterical Paulie “Lost and Delirious”, Piper Perabo’s performance here is subtle and  nuanced and she inhabits Rachel’s character with restraint. Much of the struggle in Perabo’s character is internal and she succeeds in conveying that struggle quite convincingly. Lena Headey, as always, is a delight to watch and is believable as the lonely, cynical Luce. I first saw her in “Gossip”, and she was pretty much the only good thing that came out of that film. I’ve seen her in the UK TV drama “Band of Gold”, as a lesbian prostitute, in “Possession”, as the scorned lesbian lover (all these pre-“300” and “Sarah Chronicles”) and I’d always liked her. There is something about British actresses that is always delightful to watch, I guess. ^^The chemistry between Perabo and Headey’s characters are palpable onscreen and they do light up the screen every time they come on. 1 imagine me and you 4

Sure this film may not be award-winning, and it touches on age-old cliched themes and storylines, but this film is still a joy to watch and it does leave you with a good feeling after watching it. And isn’t that the basic thing that films are supposed to do anyway? ^^

As an added bonus, I’d like to include two of my favorite scenes from the film:

1. “You’re a wanker number 9”

2. “About space” – one of the most intense scenes I have ever seen

PS:

There is a new lesbian-themed Israeli film entitled “The Secrets”. I have seen it, but as it does not have English subtitles and only Arabic/Aramaic/Hebrew (?) subtitles, I shall delay reviewing it until I get a version with English subtitles. Either that or until I learn to speak Hebrew. But from watching it, I think it’s an intense film – and part of the joy of watching it the first time around was discovering new talent in the lead character, Ania Bukstein, who plays the character so intensely, it’s amazing. Anyway, here is the trailer:

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