Recall the last time you ended a relationship on account of fear, irreconcilable differences, or a wounded ego. Assuming that you never thought about giving the relationship a second chance, what would it take for you to (pretend to) be a couple again? Would you do it for a family or high school reunion? For love of one’s country? What about debt relief? Seems too ludicrous to ponder, but director-writer N.T. Bullock and writer-producer Jared Hopkins pose and answer these questions in witty, spirited fashion in “I Ran Against Us” (2009).
Months after Jon Mackintosh (Griffin Hood) broke up with his girlfriend Sandy Redmond (Leanne Cochran), three government agents appear at his door and inform him that the front page news and TV broadcasts are telling the truth: due to foreign policy decisions made by the United States, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to stir up stateside destruction if Jon and Sandy remain separated. Jon cooperates without much fuss, once Brad (Matt Madden), the new boyfriend, has been incapacitated and dropped off in Mexico. Sandy, on the other hand, agrees on the condition that Agent Focal (Ladson Deyne) ensures that her student loans magically disappear. All that Jon and Sandy need to do is hold a press conference and convince the world that they’re really back together.
Sticking to the script proves to be difficult for Jon; not long after the camera rolls, he asks Sandy to marry him. She refuses him not only because she has Brad, but also because Jon’s proposal is so unexpected that it invites discussion. Focal’s failure to take care of things prompts the government to send Agent Fechetti (Lara Grice) from the international division. Can either of them persuade Jon and Sandy to get back on track or will past grievances and insecurities be too much to bear?
Bullock’s black-and-white film holds steady as a political and social satire for about thirty minutes, at which point it shifts gear into romantic metaphor. Focal, Jon and his friend Burnsy (Corey Stewart), Fechetti, Sandy and her friend Brittany (Marcelle Baer) are sitting at a table and talking about love. This conversation, the sanctions against Iran and Iran’s request, and the agents themselves can be read as a representation of Jon and Sandy’s relationship or as physical manifestations of their inner voices.
The satire returns later when the film expresses the idea that in situations of grave international conflict, Americans are lackadaisical in their convictions. The US will talk the promising talk but isn’t fooling anyone. Moreover, Jon gets kidnapped by a terrorist who tells him, “You’re talking about fair and logic, none of which will enter into this conversation. My country feels that some of America’s demands are equally absurd.”
Integrating the political and the romantic increases suspense and the weight of the almost-lovebirds’ decision. “I Ran Against Us” could’ve been much more serious in tone, but Bullock and Hopkins infused the film with puns and double entendres, giving it a Kevin Smith-Hal Hartley personality that capitalizes on the comedic talents of its cast.
“I Ran Against Us” conveys the wisdom that all is irrational in love and war. Individuals may be asked to sacrifice pride and rationality for national security. You must admit, it would be exciting to fall in love again by Executive order.