You (Us) Me: A dysfunctional love story
by Jesús Silva
- The debut feature by British director Max Sobol tells one of the most original romantic stories of the past year, merging a low-budget rom-com with elements of horror and black comedy
One of the most daring and provocative titles of the last year’s batch of movies is getting a good reception at the Film Fest Gent. You (Us) Me [+see also:
interview: Max Sobol
film profile] by first-time filmmaker Max Sobol had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival in October 2014, but suffered from a short theatrical run owing to a lack of distribution. Self-funded on a fairly tight budget, it finally received some support courtesy of Reel Suspects (in charge of its international sales) and is now back in the spotlight in order to present its disturbing and dysfunctional love story.
Edward (Christian J Wilde) is a peculiar kind of serial killer, like a dull and pitiful version of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, who spends his nights out stalking young women in the dark and deserted areas of London. But when Edward is about to deal with his last victim, he ends up stopping Vivian (Hannah Kew) from committing suicide, and eventually falls in love with her. This is the starting point for an awkward relationship in which one of them struggles to contain his murderous desires while the other has completely given up on life – and actually asks him to finish what she seems unable to achieve. This hopeless conflict is the single idea that drives the film forward, and is conveyed brilliantly by the strong performances of the lead couple.
You (Us) Me displays influences from a wide range of genres, drawing inspiration from romantic comedies and low-budget horror movies, and bristling with endless amounts of tension and black comedy. Although the editing might seem slightly chaotic sometimes, and the attitudes of its characters are stuck in a hyper-real and absurd kind of world, the film succeeds in leading the audience to empathise with this odd and likely offensive romance. “I think there is something universal about difficult love stories that a lot of people can relate to,” as Sobol explained (read the interview).
The narrative gets a little more complex with the ongoing investigation of Edward's previous crimes by a couple of police inspectors, his relationship with his overbearing mother, whom he has always longed for affection and approval from, and the risks arising from his encounters with a nosy neighbour, which could potentially cause the whole story to fall apart. But in the end, it all comes down to the two main characters, and the thrilling world they have built inside those brackets.