The Reluctant Partner (Film Review: “Me, Myself and Her”)

An intelligent, character-driven film about a middle-aged same-sex couple in the Eternal City, in which one partner may not be playing for keeps.

 

SnapShot Plot

What’s most refreshing about the reflective and gentle Italian film, Me, Myself and Her, starring the translucent Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli (The Great Beauty) is just how normal, indeed universal is this story of a long relationship tested by the challenges of a mid-life crisis. The fact that this is a lesbian couple is not the sole factor or the force majeure of the plot; it is simply incidental to it. Just the same, the homosexual element does generate its own measure of drama for one of the women who had come years earlier from a traditional marriage and to whom the notion of herself as a true lesbian has always been a debatable issue.

Margherita Buy (characteristically understated, bravely letting the camera reveal her every emotion) is Federica, a diligent architect who always wants to please her clients and has a hard time saying No, or saying what she wants and doesn’t want, in fact. Her partner is the acerbic and outspoken Marina, a beautiful former movie star who is now a restaurateur. The couple’s comfortable and cozy relationship makes for domestic bliss, even though there’s an undercurrent of turmoil revolving around Marina’s openness about the relationship vs. Federica’s embarrassment, which she tries to package as discretion. In an early scene in which the women are picking out a new mattress in a store showroom (the model is ironically named Physiology) their entire dynamic is cleverly revealed in a few telling moments. Shortly afterward, when Federica encounters someone she had met and was attracted to years earlier, she finds herself torn between the comfortable life she enjoys with Marina and the fulfillment of an unrequited spark of passion from long ago. It’s a fork in the road for the relationship, as we wonder how much strain it will take to either solidify Federica’s and Marina’s love, or ‘break the springs’ entirely.

 

 

Parting Shot

For those to whom stories of same-sex romance might be less than appealing, it must be pointed out that notably absent in this film are scenes of gratuitous or titillating lesbian action. In fact, there really isn’t what you’d call a sex scene anywhere in the film. Indeed, this seems to have been a quite conscious choice by Director, Maria Sole Tognazzi and Producer, Francesca Cima. And to me, this modesty had more to do with the realistic and mature nature of these peoples’ lives (as well as their individual characters’ feelings about privacy and intimacy) than with the need to make political or sexual statements.

In an interesting twist, the director herself may have been thinking of her own family in choosing to make Me, Myself and Her, which was co-written by Ivan Cotroneo and Francesca Marciano. Maria Sole’s father, the widely respected Italian actor, Ugo Tognazzi, performed one of the earliest gay roles in Italian cinema, starring in the 1978 production of Il Vizietto (La Cage aux Folles). Indeed, in an interview that Tognazzi did for The IT Factor (a London-based culture magazine created by Italian journalists) she commented on the controversial reaction the film engendered in still-very-Catholic Italy:  “I am talking about a mature couple in crisis, when sex becomes more of a problem than a solution. . . I was ‘excommunicated’ by the Osservatore Romano (a Catholic newspaper affiliated with the Vatican). I dread to think what they would have done if I had put a sex scene then.”

Me, Myself and Her ( Io e Lei) is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm5qvF0l_Ho

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