If you've followed my writing long enough, you may have recognized a pattern: my love for movies about parenting. I truly believe the greatest joy of my life is being a father. The day my son was born, there was this dramatic shift. It's no longer me, I, or myself, but you, him, and his. My whole perspective of life changed.
So, I never grow tired of films that explore that arena.
Writer-director Julia Hart is no stranger to the subject matter. Her wonderfully warmhearted 2018 dramatic thriller Fast Color is all about parenting and women's ultimate power of creation. Hart's next project, I’m Your Woman, carries the same themes, but takes them down a different path.
Starring The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan in a career-best performance, I’m Your Woman is a 1970s-set story centered on motherhood, betrayal, family, and courage. It flips the script on mob dramas. Rather than focus on a career criminal’s happenings, it revolves around Brosnahan’s character, Jean, who must go on the run with her child as a result of her husband’s wrongdoings. The family’s life becomes intertwined with an assigned bodyguard (Arinzé Kene) and a young woman (Orange is the New Black’s Marsha Stephanie Blake) for a journey of survival and uncoverings.
How often do we get films about the in-between moments or the surrounding ones in the crime genre? Hart and her filmmaking partner (and life partner), Jordan Horowitz (La La Land), are not concerned with the typical action featured in crime capers.
“I was watching a bunch of seventies crime dramas, and they have all of these incredible female actors in them playing these very small parts. Their role was only really in service of the main male character who is the criminal,” Hart said during a recent phone call with the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Hart found herself unable to stop thinking about what happens to women in those films. It caused her to have many questions — questions she wanted to explore herself.
“What are they thinking? What do they feel when they get shepherded off to safety? Do they stay safe? What happens to them? How do they feel about all of this that's happening to them? What do they know? What do they not? The questions of wondering piled on so high that I had to answer them," Hart said.
I'm Your Woman positions a thrilling scenario that doesn't filter these questions through a spoon-fed plot. Hart's film challenges the audience by keeping viewers in the dark just as much as the central character. Similar to Fast Color, the full story is revealed until about halfway through — a tactic that Hart employs to keep the narrative fresh and authentic.
"I always get frustrated when I watch a movie and get everything upfront as if someone didn't trust that I could be patient and could trust the storytelling and discover things over time," Hart said. "So, it's tricky because, for some audiences, it makes them uncomfortable. People are comfortable with being given all of the information they need right away, and then they get to lean back and watch what they're watching."
Hart accepts the risk and prefers to force the audience to lean in and be curious. Patience, in particular with I'm Your Woman, can sometimes lead to a more sterling and rewarding experience.
"People don't always sit down and tell you their life story [like movies often portray]. I wanted to stay with Jean's perspective for the whole film. She's in every frame of the movie, and you're learning everything right alongside her. It really puts you in her shoes, which I think is an integral part of the film," Hart said.
Although I’m Your Woman features incredibly intense scenes involving bullets flying and bodies hitting the floor, it isn't an action vehicle built for popcorn consumption. It's a meditative, character-driven piece filled with thoughtful and genuine moments. Whether it showcases a parent in a delirious state, trying to calm a crying baby, or struggling to prepare a good meal, universality permeates the film. Many of the story beats are, naturally, plucked from Hart's life, to which one wonders: Can a storyteller stay present in their own life when it comes to inspiration?
"There's this amazing line [from Boris Trigorin in Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull], where he talks about how you can never shut off the creative brain. It's something that I very much relate to as a writer. I hate myself a little bit sometimes," Hart admitted. "I'll be in a situation where I just want to be in the moment, and then, all of a sudden, I'll be like, "Ah, this would be a great scene in a movie." So, it's a blessing and a curse because it allows your life to be your inspiration, but it sometimes takes your life away from you."
Through Hart's sacrifice as an artist and her filmmaking craftsmanship, the audience is able to latch onto different lessons and walk away with different feelings. This is an aspect of storytelling that Hart was aware of due to her own film-watching experiences.
"It's amazing the movies that I could watch before I became a parent and the movies that I can't watch once I became a parent. I didn't direct my first film until my older son was almost one. All of my movies are either about mothers or relationships between children and their mothers. It's definitely something that I'm really interested in," Hart said. "Obviously, in I'm Your Woman, there are two children, and they're put in dangerous situations. But as a storyteller, I can never have anything actually bad ever happen to the young characters."
Rest easy, parents.
Both highly suspenseful and deeply emotional, I'm Your Woman is a touching exploration of the boundless love between a mother and her child as well as a grand story of survival. I remain struck by both the simplicity and tenderness in Hart's film. Anchored by exceptional performances from its wonderfully diverse cast, it’s 100 percent a work that trusts its audience and takes its time letting you in on the particulars.
Seek I'm Your Woman out this weekend on Amazon Prime Video and allow this indie jewel to shine for you and give you more to ponder and appreciate about life.