What it’s about
What I like about it
For my Criterion Blogathon entry, I focused on Paris, Texas as an example of the devastating impact wrought on the psyche when we lose the ability to communicate with one another. I could just as easily have thrown a dart in the local video store though. When it comes right down to it, there is nothing else. We cannot connect with one another if we cannot communicate, and if we cannot connect then we are lost. George Sand said, “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved,” and truer words have never been spoken. The ancient epic poem The Iliad is about Menelaus reconnecting with Helen. The recent hit “Hello” by Adele is about reconnecting, if only fleetingly and from a distance, with a past lover.Yesterday, today, tomorrow, one thousand years from now, to borrow a phrase from Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same. Our stories in some form or fashion explicitly or implicitly all boil down to the connections we either make or fail to make with one another, and with language being what it is, a random association of signifier and signified, is it any wonder we have so much trouble with it?
Language, of course, is not the only tool we have. Our first and foremost tool for communicating is our physicality, our bodies. When I started this blog, I chose “manpointing” as the domain name not because it has anything to do with movies but because I am a fan of the work by Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti, who explores the difficulties of communicating past barriers of not only our bodies but also of the very spaces we inhabit. Let’s face it. It’s a tough road to hoe.
All of that goes for an unnecessarily long introduction to Be with Me, which explores this theme as well. I certainly cannot recommend Be with Me unequivocally. The acting is actually pretty terrible, and the narrative, which weaves together four different stories, is convoluted. It is an interesting movie though, principally because of its main character and in light of its theme. Theresa Poh Lin Chan,a deaf, blind woman who plays herself in the movie, as a person who has overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers to communication, serves as a counterpart to the characters from the other three stories that overlap hers, an overweight security guard who pines for a woman who traverses the building he works in, a young lesbian girl jilted by another who was perhaps just experimenting, and an old man dealing with loneliness following the death of his spouse.
The security guard cannot bring himself to approach the object of his longing. Nervous to the point of becoming physically ill in her presence, he is what a young woman I work with would refer to as “a creeper,” and there’s some indication that the object of his affection in the movie likely would refer to him that way as well. Unable to speak to her and knowing a message first has to be sent before it can be received, he decides to declare himself to her via a letter. For the girl, the problem is different. Having received the sort of encouragement the security guard can only dream of, she sends text messages easily and often, and her love interest quickly responds to them. For awhile that is, until one day she doesn’t. What now? Message sent. Message received. But it doesn’t produce the desired effect, and in this case it turns out two out of three is bad.
Chan refers to her early days of being deaf and blind (she lost both sight and hearing as a young girl) as being in a “silent and dark prison.” She breaks free of this prison spectacularly, learning not only to sign but also to speak English. Showing promise as a gifted student, she receives scholarships to study abroad, meets a wide variety of people, does her own charity work, and “even dates.” Compared to being deaf and blind, catatonia induced by the sight of a pretty girl and dealing with rejection when your lover decides to go back to batting for the other team seem pretty tame. The movie, however, doesn’t judge, and we learn that Chan too was denied her wish for a family and long term happiness as her loved died from nose cancer before they were to be married. There are, as it turns out, no guarantees, and an ironic twist is thrown in at the end as if to further emphasize this point.
Who else likes it
Oddly enough, most people. It has a 90% critic rating and an 81% audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Critic Matthew Leyland describes it as “awkward but absorbing.” It is. And even though it looks like it was made for about $75, it’s interesting and thought provoking. It reminds me of an article I read a while back wherein a music aficionado was trying to explain to a friend how rewarding the music of Philip Glass can be if you simply shift the paradigm from beautiful/ugly to interesting/boring.
P.S.- When does admiration from afar cease to be flattering and just become creepy?