I Wrote This for You, written by Brennan Keel Cook and directed by Jason Zavaletais, is frustrating. The film follows Hunter (Brennan Keel Cook), a struggling poet in Los Angeles, who is humble and kind on the outside but is internally haunted by a recent breakup. Phoenix (Serra Naiman) starts to flirt with him, striking up a sexually-suggestive relationship. But it eventually sours when Phoenix begins to manipulate Hunter in various ways emotionally, and Hunter pushes back. Throughout, he has dreams generally related to his ex-girlfriend, Ariana (Melise).
The poetry is the standout aspect of the movie. Written by Jasmine Willams, these poems are spoken during poetry slams throughout the comedic drama. Phoenix is the only major character to get one at the beginning. The problem is that her poem doesn’t exactly match her character as presented throughout the rest of the film. The poem describes a woman who dealt with homelessness from a young age due to an abusive father but wants to secure a better future for her child. Phoenix’s character is carefree and childish, manipulating Hunter as their relationship develops. She’s portrayed as someone who uses others for her own gain. This leads me to believe that Cook randomly added parts where the poems would be, without concern for what else he was writing. Whatever the case, the poems floored me, telling me enough to get to know each character who spoke and leaving just enough out to want to learn more. Unfortunately, I Wrote This for You never delivers.
Despite Hunter being the main character, Phoenix is the far more interesting character. She evolves from a love interest to a generally toxic person through Hunter’s increasing interactions with her. The huge problem here is that her character development doesn’t go anywhere in affecting Hunter’s main goal of getting over his previous relationship. After she leaves, he continues on a downward psychological spiral, albeit at an accelerated speed. If the story is not affected by Phoenix’s relationship with Hunter, why does she even exist as a character?
“…a struggling poet in Los Angeles, who is humble and kind on the outside but is internally haunted by a recent breakup.”
Hunter felt like a passive protagonist, despite him actually doing a lot throughout the movie’s runtime. He does a random act of kindness each day, but none of them ever actively progress the plot. He always falls into the next scene, the narrative’s needs propelling him forward, rather than the other way around. That arbitrariness leaves Hunter with little character development, which is made even worse, considering there are numerous dream sequences throughout the movie. So, despite literally seeing inside his head, I felt no closer to understanding or connecting with what he wants or needs.
Unfortunately, I Wrote This for You doesn’t just suffer in its content but also in its form. I can forgive some minor technical issues with a film on an indie budget. However, my major problem is not with any mistakes or deficiencies. It is with how these technical aspects were used; the aesthetic, or lack thereof. Zavaleta has no style as a director, so the movie lacks visual distinctiveness. Watching it, I felt like the filmmaker always chose the most basic framing, lighting, set design, blocking, etc. It can be challenging to nail every shot each moment, but here there was little to no artistic intent put in, or if there was, it was so horribly communicated among the creative team, the result became a distracting mess that never looked quite right.
I Wrote This For You is a story done to death: the young writer struggling with an internal conflict relating to a past relationship. The film brings almost nothing new to the table and doesn’t explain why it exists in the first place. Add to that an undeveloped main character and a muddled aesthetic, and it becomes a frustrating slog that occasionally shows faint glimmers of a better movie.
"…the poetry is the standout aspect of the movie."