Miranda July’s feature directorial debut is still a strange charmer

It’s been fifteen years since writer/director Miranda July’s debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know, won over the festival circuit and introduced her creative mind to a larger audience. As a commemoration and celebration, Criterion Collection released the 2005 film a few weeks ago in a BluRay packed with a trove of special features.

Me and You and Everyone We Know is genre-defying and difficult to classify. It’s an ensemble work, a family drama, a romantic comedy, a comedy of errors, a take on a segment of working class Los Angeles at the turn of the century. Half of the characters live in a run-down apartment complex, and two of them work in a department store shoe department. There are sexually-curious teens, a girl who dreams of a future life steeped in domesticity, and a little boy who wonders how the clanking sound he hears in the morning brings about the sunrise.

John Hawkes is disarming as a newly-separated father at loose ends. July’s artist/driver character Christine is easily won over by Richard and becomes fascinated by him. She aims to court him, despite his initial hesitation. Meanwhile, his sons Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff) begin online chatting with an anonymous adult, about “pooping back and forth, forever.”

There’s a depth to this quirky film as it depicts an elderly couple who has found love in their last days, the dreaminess one feels as the possibility of a new connection arises, or desperation brought on by loneliness. A thirty-something bachelor pastes explicit fantasies to his window but has no real plan to carry them out. Richard burns himself in a stunt to show off for his kids. “I am prepared for amazing things to happen. I can handle it,” he tells his co-worker.

The set decoration of July’s 2005 film bursts with color, but includes cracks in stairs and stucco, emphasizing the tight financial situation of the characters she’s created. The wealthiest character is one of the loneliest, a gallery owner to whom Christine sends her video installations in hopes of a show.

There’s an earnestness and an inescapable hope to Me and You and Everyone We Know. I remember seeing this film in its initial release and falling a little bit in love with the big heart of the work. But it had been at least a decade since I revisited July’s film. It is more vital than I recalled, and I found it especially warm and forgiving as I watched during this pandemic. The late love between the elderly couple, even the goldfish interlude — Christine and her client worry about a goldfish a father left on his car roof while driving off — have even more emotional impact in these times.

The Criterion Collection Director-Approved Special Edition BluRay of Me and You and Everyone We Know includes special features such as:

  • a 2017 short, Open to the World, about July’s temporary installation in London: an interfaith charity shop within a high-end department store. It’s a moving short about an innovative notion.
  • July discusses her influences and process with Lena Dunham in an original Criterion short, Miranda July: Where It Began. My sole complaint is I wish there were slightly less of Dunham and more of July in it.
  • a documentary about July’s Joanie 4 Jackie video project, in which the artist would share short films made by female filmmakers throughout the nation in a sort of VHS chain letter. The BluRay also includes four shorts from that project.
  • a couple of her early shorts: The Amateurist from 1998, and Nest of Tens from 2000
  • deleted scenes, trailer, and way more
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