One of the more resonant ironies of contemporary life is that often, the technological tools meant to bring people together end up isolating them, encasing consumers in protective bubbles of cell phones, SUVs, iPods, and laptops. In light of this paradox, it's no surprise that online sex has become such a potent metaphor for the loneliness and alienation of the Internet age, first in Closer and now in Me And You And Everyone We Know, a quirkily funny, startlingly assured comedy-drama from writer-director-star Miranda July. July's strangely ingratiating dreamers, lost souls, and angel-headed dorks have to scream just to make their voices heard above the white noise of modern life. They go to extremes to break out of their prisons of loneliness, but they have an innate tendency to strike at their objects of desire from all the wrong angles, looking for love, or at least acceptance and approval, in all the wrong places and from all the wrong people.
July, who radiates the weirdly charismatic, geeked-out intensity of Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary, stars as an eccentric performance artist who becomes romantically obsessed with a loopy shoe salesman (John Hawkes) going through a painful separation from the mother of his two boys. Hawkes' sons—original, hypnotic screen presences who look endearingly like Boondocks characters—meanwhile stumble through awkward encounters with the opposite sex, one with a chat-room deviant with weird kinks, and the other with a pair of precocious teens who are otherwise preoccupied by a queasy flirtation with a sweaty older man.
Reduced to its bare outlines, July's film suggests the transgressive sexual preoccupations of raging misanthropes Todd Solondz and Larry Clark. July's characters are stumbling, maladjusted perverts, but the film nevertheless glows with a warm humanism worthy of Richard Linklater or David Gordon Green. July obviously loves these troubled souls with a swooning, half-mad devotion worthy of one of her characters. She digs them because of their weaknesses and failings, not in spite of them. Me And You And Everyone We Know represents a glorious anomaly: a near-perfect debut feature from someone with total mastery of her material, assisted by a uniformly stellar cast and a superb cinematographer able to perfectly execute her vision. The film's menagerie of dreamers stumble through life unhindered by common sense, but July's generous, empathetic writing and direction holds out for each of them the possibility not only of hope and meaningful connections, but also transcendence.