The red string of fate is an East Asian belief, where, according to myth, the gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another. These two people, connected by thread, are destined lovers, regardless of place, time, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break.
In Your Eyes is pure, unadulterated romance. In a genre that seems often to be ignored as its own entity, In Your Eyes soars as it follows Rebecca and Dylan’s love story, that of two broken people destined to be with one another.
FINALLY! I ranted earlier this year about a severe lack of good romantic films. Just romance. Not comedy, not indie, not framed around a high-stakes action plot (though those movies are great, too), but just romance. In Your Eyes delivers.
Written by Joss Whedon, directed by Brin Hill, and starring Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David, In Your Eyes is the second feature from Bellwether Pictures, a production company founded by Joss Whedon and his wife Kai Cole. Apparently Joss* wrote the script back in the early 90s, which makes perfect sense for his oeuvre, this film fitting perfectly in with the hopeless love tone set in the early years of Buffy.
I don’t think romance gets enough credit. These days they either get segregated to comedy or drama or Nicholas Sparks. It wasn’t even until about halfway way through In Your Eyes that I even realized I was watching a hard romance. I thought, as advertised, that I was in for an indie offering.
I believe that “indie” means two different things. The first being the budget and the second referring to a type of genre. To me the genre that an “indie” film is, is coming-of-age. Meaning, what is more important than the technical genre (comedy, romance, sci-fi, etc.), is that our lead character learns a lesson and grows as a human being. (Even just the last few indie films I’ve seen, St. Vincent, Obvious Child, The Skeleton Twins, all stand by this.) In Your Eyes is not an “indie” romance film. It is a romance. The characters main purpose is not to grow, but to find each other.
I guess I’m expounding on this** because I don’t remember the last time I saw a pure romance. Something that swept me up and took me away and made me fall in love. (I’ve seen plenty of great indies with romance — Zoe Kazan starring in many of them — but, they’re blends of coming-of-age or comedy, not the straight to the veins, hard dose of hopeless that In Your Eyes is***.)
They’re a rare breed and they’re often not given the time or the credit they deserve because romance is perceived as “girly” and therefore less worthy. (Don’t even get me started on defending The Notebook in film school. It saddens me greatly that our film theory professor would not — or, at least, hadn’t yet and wasn’t interested in — watching the most successful film of the son of John God Damn Cassavetes. (But there were other battles to be fought, like the lack of inclusion of Amelie, Moulin Rouge, and many other female or romance driven films, on the lists of the ‘greatest films’ that were handed out to us.) Romance is a genre that is worthy and In Your Eyes is a film that deserves to be included in lists of the best. In fact, I would place In Your Eyes between The Notebook and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as one of the best romances I have ever seen.
I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot, in fact I don’t even recommend watching the trailer. But I will tell you this: In a romance you must place obstacles in front of your soulmates. Real obstacles, not contrived ones. They must feel unsurmountable but — as the story progresses — not repetitive. And Joss Whedon and Brin Hill do this with aplomb; they’re patient, holding back until we’re no longer sitting on the edge of our seat, but fallen to the floor, eyes welling, knuckles white, breath held. The whole cast does a splendid job. While Zoe Kazan is luminous, as always, Michael Stahl-David will infiltrate your dreams. He is charming and handsome and kind. And it being a Joss Whedon script, there are no hints of misogyny from our romantic hero. Once you embrace the romance genre — that is if you can… I will no longer argue with men (or women) over things they don’t or won’t choose to understand, instead sharing things with the people who do — this film is perfect. I can’t wait to watch it again.
Take these words with a grain of salt, if you will. It’s all coming from a preternaturally effusive romantic with Shakespeare tattooed on her wrist and Klimt prints on her walls, but I loved In Your Eyes from all the way from its touching start to its unapologetic end. This is the romance film I’ve been waiting for.
You can find the film on Netflix, iTunes, or rent it here, on their website.
Real love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. It’s blood screaming inside you to work its will.
– Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
*We’re on a first name basis because write for the job you want?
**Also, Vulture put In Your Eyes on a list of great indie rom-coms. Great, yes. Indie rom-com, no.
***You could argue that In Your Eyes is actually a fantasy-romance, but if we’re being honest, aren’t all romances a fantasy? And though the elements of fantasy in this film veer into science fiction, sure, this film navigates them so well that it always feels like reality. (And what do we know, maybe for some it is?)