From director Ice Mrozek, Him & Her is about two young and unnamed twenty-year-olds in 1989. He (Callan McAuliffe) lives in Chicago, while she (Cristina Spruell) lives in Michigan. The odds of them meeting each other are incredibly slim. The movie opens with audio of him and her making a call independently to separate people. He calls the phone company, and she calls a therapist. By pure luck, their phone lines cross, and instead of hanging up, they find themselves enjoying each other’s company. They form a bond based on shared interests and an emotional understanding. The following day they set a time to meet face-to-face. Is the connection still intact?
What sounds mawkish on the surface is quite effective in execution. Taking place in 1989, Mrozek weaves together an inventive romance that, like most relationships, begins with a chance encounter. The first half follows them as they talk on the phone without ever seeing each other. They allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other. The woman talks about her passion for music. The man discusses how he likes to write, paint, and film. His passions caused some financial and emotional strain because he refused to give in to anyone’s demands. The story underlines the importance of establishing a connection beyond physical appearance. If anything, within the lens of the movie, self-disclosure is the most crucial source of attraction.
Naturally, Him & Her leans into the chemistry of the leads. Callan McAuliffe and Cristina Spruell are absorbing and versatile performers who show great range. It works as a romance by virtue of their performances. That’s not to say the script and direction lack momentum and focus. The movie has a lot to say about attraction, love, passion, and whether it’s worth pursuing.
“By pure luck, their phone lines cross, and instead of hanging up, they find themselves enjoying each other’s company.”
Director of photography Charlie Cole has complete control of the lighting and camerawork, inducing a fantastical romantic aura in cluttered, darkly-lit settings. The camera is mainly distant, with the characters’ faces concealed for the majority of the first half. Cole only ever yields extreme close-ups when the moment calls for it. The good song selection, which includes Joshy Soul’s “Water” and a version of “Into My Arms” by Sandra Bjurman, helps capture the emotion and joy associated with being close to someone, even if it’s only for a while.
The two leads struggle with inner conflict, making for a fascinating exploration of self-doubt. The characters wrestle with budding feelings of regret, grief, and guilt. There is a lot of depth and likability to the characters. They look and talk like real artists trying to reignite that part of themself that injected them with life. While the flow of Him & Her is somewhat disjointed due to the reliance on music montages, the sensitive performances make you care about the future of the central pair’s relationship.
Ice Mrozek’s Him & Her is an emotionally resonant romance with solid direction and wonderful performances. The movie recognizes the need to confront positive and negative emotions directly. Nothing, not even a relationship or dream, is without risk. Mrozek understands that but doesn’t give in to the expected narrative beats of a romance. All in all, this fleeting romance is perfectly imperfect, just like most if not all relationships.
"…an emotionally resonant romance with solid direction and wonderful performances."