Nate Meyer is the latest indie director to catch the wave of reverse romantic comedies, riding against the formula grain to extract some new life in an exhausted genre. While See Girl Run doesn’t achieve the heights of recent anti-rom-com rom-com’s like (500) Days of Summer or last year’s Like Crazy, Meyer’s love poem to the power of stable, routine relationships is gently affecting, mildly amusing, and wistful, a modest entry into the genre that’s far better and more genuine than Adam Scott’s last stab at an indie romantic comedy, Friends with Kids.
The story is Emmie’s (Robin Tunney), a dog kennel owner in New York city mired in a not unhappy marriage to Graham (Josh Hamilton), a nice, caring husband who nevertheless has settled into a kind of marital monotony. Emmie, meanwhile, is restless, and despite escaping her small town to live in the city, owning her own business, and being in a loving relationship, there’s a nagging sense of lack that often waylays an otherwise happy couple several years into the marriage (I believe this is colloquially called the Seven Year Itch). Long-dormant feelings for an old high school boyfriend, Jason (Adam Scott) resurface, and they are stoked by the unreciprocated post cards and love letters that Jason has been sending her for years. She also realizes that, technically, she and Jason never broke up after high school, and there are some unresolved feelings she needs to explore.
Without a word to her husband, Emmie packs a bag, jumps in her car, and returns to her hometown to explore these feelings with Jason, to see if there’s something there. Meanwhile, in 20 years, Jason — ever the romantic — has never wavered in his feelings for Emmie, steadfast in his confidence that the two will be reunited and that his art career — he paints frogs — will eventually take off.
Meyer keeps Emmie and Jason apart most of the film, as the two explore the possibilities of a potential relationship separately in the same town, bridged only by Emmie’s brother and Jason’s friend, Brandon (Jeremy Strong), an alcoholic manic-depressive who can’t stop crying. The small town at the center of the film is Portland, Maine — my town of residence — and Meyer does a remarkable job of shrinking what’s actually a decently sized city into a Wilco-of-a-town: Romantically dreary and sort of a ocean-rustic, the kind of place littered with lobster traps that would be difficult to walk around without a cigarette.
Anchored by strong performances from Jeremy Strong, William Sadler (who plays Emmie’s father), and a character unlike what we’ve seen from Adam Scott in the past, See Girl Run steers away from the quirk and whimsy associated with some of the other anti rom-com rom coms and drifts along on strong writing, capable direction, likable characters, and a warm, cozy mood. It is not a powerful film, but it is a sweet one, and a must-see for anyone who wants to fill in the gaps in Scott’s range between his character in The Vicious Kind and “Party Down.”
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