“You’re not a nice person.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“Actually, I think I do.”
What control do we really have over our path in this life? How much of who we become is subtly cultivated within us by our surroundings? Does who raises us, or who we go to school with and befriend, play a bigger part in determining the people we ultimately become than our own free will?
I’m Not In Love, scripted by Col Spector (Honeymooner) & Radha Chakraborty (Someone Else) and directed by Spector, attempts to answer these questions as it tells the love story of Rob (Al Weaver, Colette, Peterloo) and Marta (Cristina Catalina, Prime Video’s Hanna). The movie opens with Rob’s father walking out on his mother and leaving Rob, still a young boy, alone with her. What is emphasized in this scene is not solely the act of him leaving, but the parting message he leaves Rob. After describing Rob’s mother as “unstable”, he describes the marriage as a “life sentence”, and then recommends Rob never get married, comparing it to willfully choosing to live in a concentration camp. “Why any sane person would do it is beyond me.”
Fast forward thirty years and Rob is in a committed relationship with Marta. Marta, pushing forty-years-old, is an immigrant who feels isolated in a way Rob does not understand. This combined with a potential fear of starting over at her age, are essential details to the movie’s story arc. Without them her commitment to Rob, who shows very little actual interest in her, would not make sense. When Rob comes home early one day and overhears Marta describing to a friend her longing for marriage and kids, he immediately turns around and goes for a walk in the park. He wants to be anywhere else.
This discovery sets off a series of self-sabotage, where Rob tries to have his cake and eat it too. He meets up with an ex-girlfriend who has less interest in him than he does in Marta; he goes on dates with random women only to tell them about his “committed relationship” the second the mood turns sour. It is as if he is the embodiment of the phrase, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Only, Rob wants to have his feet on both sides of the fence.
Which leads to my biggest issue with the film: Rob simply isn’t a likable person. As I watched this film, I did not find myself rooting for him to succeed, nor did I particularly enjoy his exploits. At one point Rob, on a date with a young waitress, ends up drunk in a hotel room with a married couple. The couple attempts to push drugs, among other things, on the pair, which his naïve, inebriated date is more than willing to partake in. Rob, realizing this is not right on many levels, firmly rejects the couple and convinces his date to let him put her in a taxi to get home safe. This is, by my count, the only remotely redeemable act Rob does in eighty minutes of screen time, until the very end. Difficult characters are ok, but redemption arcs need to be earned.
But is this Rob’s fault? Or were the wheels set in motion the second his father walked out the door? Perhaps none of it is Rob’s fault. Maybe the disdain Rob has for his mother, and women in general, did not develop organically. Maybe Rob’s father took a page out of Dominick Cobb’s book in Inception and placed the seed in his head himself, only for it to grow into something bigger over the next thirty years. Rob seems to think so. If one thing matches his indifference towards women it is his ability to play the victim.
This film certainly has appeal. It was well-scripted, with free-flowing, realistic dialogue, delivered by actors who knew the characters they were portraying so well, I would believe they were not acting at all. I will always try to view a movie through the lens of what it is trying to accomplish, rather than what I want it to be. With that in mind, I believe this movie achieved exactly what it set out to. Because, in the end, Rob sees the error of his ways. He recognizes that, to a certain extent, he has free will, and the crumbling relationship he has with the two most important women in his life–Marta and his mother–may very well have started with his father, but now it’s on him. Through it all, for the first time in his adult-life, he wants to face his mistakes, and deal with the consequences.
I’m just not sure I enjoyed watching the journey.
I’m Not in Love was released on digital platforms on January 25 from Gravitas Ventures.