‘She Came to Me’ review: Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway stun in ace rom-com dramedy | Berlinale
The latest film from writer-director Rebecca Miller (Maggie’s Plan, Personal Velocity) starring Oscar winners Anne Hathaway and Marisa Tomei and Emmy winner Peter Dinklage, is a hilarious, yet touching kick-starter to this year’s Berlinale. There are many dimensions to Miller’s writing here as she crafts her characters’ emotional journeys with a deft, mindful touch. It is not a simple film with one thematic goal in mind, instead it has an ambitious story that deals with consent, romance, creativity and mental health issues. Each character is different, struggling and succeeding at various points but it’s through Miller’s direction that all of the film’s varying storylines come together in a succinct manner.
She Came to Me centres around a chance encounter between two people from entirely different worlds; Steven (Peter Dinklage), an opera composer, and Katrina (Marisa Tomei), a tugboat captain. Steven is forced to get out of the house to ease his writer’s block, as his new opera deadline is looming, this is where he stumbles upon Katrina in a Brooklyn bar, drinking at 11am. They begin chatting, which quickly leads to Katrina inviting Steven to see her boat. Steven is completely naïve as he steps into the boat captain’s cabin, Katrina is interested in him and reveals some intriguing, yet disturbing details about her obsession with romance that sends Steven into a mysterious trance. It’s clear he never intended to cheat on his wife, Patricia (Anne Hathaway), but Katrina’s mystique gets the better of him which has lasting consequences.
Patricia, brilliantly played by Hathaway, is on an entirely different path as she revisits her past with religion; visiting, donating and helping out at the local Catholic church. Although they both seem to have a life of luxury, the pressure of their jobs collapses their façade of normalcy. But for Patricia’s son (Evan Ellison), life seems so sweet as he and Tereza (Harlow Jane) are in love, but things take a turn for the worse as some hidden secrets are unveiled. What follows is a narrative full of comedy, romance and adversity. It could be described as an operatic comedy, in a literal and thematic sense.
The performances are all top-notch in their own ways, Miller has very individual needs for all of her actors. Hathaway plays an ultra-tidy, germaphobe psychiatrist who begins to lose it as things start unraveling around her. Hathaway gives it her all in her character’s climactic scene that will be talked about for years to come, it’s an explosively unforgettable moment. Dinklage, on the other hand, remains very quiet throughout the film, but that’s just his character. But it’s Tomei that is the great surprise here, she is a chameleon through and through. She is unrecognisable as she digs deep into Miller’s excellent role.
Miller’s world takes some time to get one engaged, but as soon as the character of Steven meets Katrina, the narrative really begins to pick up the pace and everything shifts into gear. There is something so personal about the film, all the emotions on show are well earned and have an impact on those watching. Perhaps it’s because of the many storylines about very different people that makes it so personal, as there’s bound to be a little of everyone watching within at least one of the protagonists. But another quality that perfectly aids Miller’s ace screenplay and direction is Sam Levy’s almost romantic cinematography. It has a soft, comforting feel at times. Playing into this is the ever-shifting aspect ratios that also highlight the emotions on-screen, especially during scenes of intimacy with the frame tightening. However, Levy and Miller cleverly utilise the same technique in the film’s other very contrasting sex scene with Steven and Katrina, this time emphasising the closing of Steven’s walls as things get intimate.
Ultimately, She Came to Me works as an absurdist comedy that also relies on the conventions of drama, it’s a brilliant mix of both and is highly entertaining. Miller’s long awaited return to directing welcomes the audience to a very different type of rom-com experience, the effect that it has will surely be a lasting one, if the film is marketed right. But it will undoubtedly be tricky given that it’s a genre mashup, so it’s hard to define where it lies, which has proven time and again to be a tricky spot for those marketing films. Miller’s latest is a great way to start out the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival, and hopefully the exposure it gets being here will garner enough attention to make it widely seen. There hasn’t been a rom-com this inventive in a long time.
This review is from the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival.