A breakthrough movie for Italy, Io E Lei is the first movie about a lesbian couple. Stars top actresses Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli.
Review Me, Myself and Her
This Italian film anatomizes the breakdown of a relationship between two middle-aged women who’ve been together for five years. Marina (Sabrina Ferilli) is a former movie star who’s now in the food industry; Federica (Margherita Buy) is an architect who’s never been in love with a woman before Marina.
From the beginning, we see a subtly escalating level of strain and doubt erupting between two people who definitely love each other but are becoming very restless. Federica is, even after five years, supremely insecure and uncomfortable with the idea of herself as gay—in fact, she specifically says she isn’t—and resents the hell out of Marina for outing her in a magazine interview. (The journalist asks whether she’s in love with anyone, and Marina mentions Federica by first name and profession.) Meanwhile, Federica’s doubt and denial have clearly been very hard on Marina, who’s been out for decades (attested to by the interlocking Venus symbols tattooed to her hand) and who’s understandably hurt by the constant nags that she isn’t being “discreet” enough.
They’re women in their fifties; of course they’re restless and wondering if this is all there is. A man shows up in each woman’s life around the same time. One’s a filmmaker who wants Marina to come out of retirement for a part he’s written just for her. One’s an optometrist who’s had a crush on Federica for a while.
Marina accepts the role. You can probably guess what happens next.
Me, Myself and Her is a mixed bag. At a character level, it does a great job anatomizing the decay of a relationship and the pain and confusion that result. This in large part thanks to Buy and Ferilli, both extremely gifted performers who embrace and embody a very nuanced portrayal of a middle-aged female couple dealing with the pressures (internal and external) of their situation. Every closeup on Buy or Ferilli is a symphony—these women can do more with their eyebrows than many actors can with their entire bodies. Their acting, and the relationship they portray is the heart and soul of the film. And regardless of its shortcomings, Maria Sole Tognazzi’s film has a good heart.
But beyond its lead performances and competent if unfleshed out supporting cast—once again, the city of Rome steals the show in the supporting category—the story is one of those uncomfortable ones that is not quite a drama and not quite a comedy. It has elements of both, and some of the film’s best moments are a bit silly and others are deeply introspective, and while there are plenty of examples of a dramedy that works, this is not one of them.
The ending is painfully predictable, but worse than that, it rings completely false and puts two very gifted actors through a finale completely unworthy of their subtlety and deftness. It doesn’t feel true to the characters, to who they are. In fact, without totally revealing it (“You had me at Ciao?”), I’d go so far as to say that anyone who’s been cheated on would be highly likely to call bullshit on the ending. It’s ridiculously easy. And contending with broken relationships can be a lot of things but easy ain’t one of ’em. I found myself thinking of the scene in Grosse Pointe Blankwhere a bloodstained John Cusack pauses in the middle of a shootout to tell Minnie Driver, who is hiding in the bathtub, “Debbie, I love you and I think we can make this work!” That’s pure comedy, and it’s earned. That’s not what happens here. Me, Myself and Her has light comedy, a lot of existential angst and a certain amount of drama, which, taken together, makes the ending hard to excuse.
That said, the film has compelling and wonderful principal characters, a good premise and is decently stylish. And though the story contains zero surprises—unless you were expecting a more subtle denouement—the film has a kind heart and a certain guileless sincerity (and a certain Mediterranean femme spiciness) that are charming no matter what. Upshot? Viewers will probably be charmed and annoyed in equal measure, the latter especially whenever some irritating script choices put the great actors in a tough spot. They do the best they can with it, and their best is a lot.
Director: Maria Sole Tognazzi
Writer: Maria Sole Tognazzi, Ivan Cotroneo, Francesca Marciano
Starring: Margherita Buy, Sabrina Ferilli, Fausto Maria Sciarappa, Alessia Barela, Domenico Diele, Ennio Fantastichini