If you were to meet Jules (Briana Walsh) and James (Jordan Potch) in a crowded party, you'd likely want to be like them.
Jules possesses a bohemian spirit. She has a charismatic presence that demands you look at her, a vulnerability that is both inspired by strength and raw in its frailties.
James is a wannabe beatnik possessing a writer's soul and yet also a pragmatist's awareness that the world around us doesn't always support our hopes and dreams. He is poetic in his presence, an aura of truth always piercing through his coulda beens and shoulda beens.
Jules and James are, of course, a couple. On the surface, they seem dazzlingly right for one another and, it would be my guess, at one time they truly were.
Those times, it appears, may be gone. Maybe not. This is, after all, their story.
This Is Your Song is the latest film from Hassan Said, an Egyptian-born filmmaker whose efforts have been reviewed consistently by The Independent Critic over the years. It introduces us to Jules and James on the occasion of their seventh anniversary, though one has forgotten the occasion and the other has not.
This Is Your Song would appear to be a love story. This is not, of course, entirely accurate. This Is Your Song is a story about love - how it forms, how it grows, how it maintains, how it compromises, how it stifles, and how it breaks.
Jules and James are the couple I'd always imagined I'd be if I ever for a single moment could maintain a successful relationship. They are fiercely passionate whether fighting or fucking - they do both in abundance. They are both the confident people you can't help but notice across the crowded room AND the wounded souls always struggling to reach for the light.
Jules a stage actor, dedicated to her craft yet stifled in a San Francisco that has changed and a romantic relationship that won't. We learn rather quickly that she has landed a an opportunity on the East Coast that offers artistic exhilaration and freedom from an increasingly impossible life.
We're immediately taken by James, though perhaps it's because he seems more emotionally frail and yet also emotionally volatile. He's sympathetic in a weird way and it's refreshing that Said, co-writing alongside Lourdes Figueroa, has allowed both characters to be fully human in both glorious and frustrating ways.
Together, these two seem so right and yet also so wrong.
Over the course of this night, This Is Your Song will become a story we feel in our bones. It's their story. It's our story. It's a universal story. It's a story of love born and broken, whispered and shouted. It's a story of dreams and realities, harsh truths and secrets revealed.
Both Walsh and Potch are stage-trained actors and it shows in the myriad of ways they find to relate to one another. They maximize the space of their San Francisco apartment, simultaneously a safe haven and a prison. Lensing by Peggy Peralta practically floats across the screen as if we're not quite floating but never fully grounded. Peralta both observes and pierces, immerses and jars. The lensing here is fiercely creative yet also demanding reality.
Original music by Brad Fischer serves as a perfect companion for the film's emotional rhythms, peaks and valleys. Fischer's tones amplify both the highs and lows yet radiate with an almost guttural humanity. The entire production team here deserves major kudos.
Yet, it's hard to imagine This Is Your Song without Walsh and Potch. The two surrender themselves to Jules and James in magnificent ways and the result is, appropriately so, absolutely magnificent to watch. In her first film appearance, Walsh becomes someone to absolutely watch as she owns the stage and the screen and the apartment and the audience.
Potch is a little less new to the cinematic world yet there's no denying this should be his breakthrough rule to bigger things. James would be so proud. Yet wary.
After a successful festival run, This Is Your Song found its distribution home with indie up-and-comer Indie Rights. It seems a natural home for a film with so much vibrance and independent spirit. Those who embrace the brave and increasingly rare world of truly independent cinema will want to check out This Is Your Song on all the usual Indie Rights streaming platforms.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic