Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 7/18/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Eoin McNamee, I Want You tells the story of a young, mute boy obsessed with a young hairdresser whose ex-convict boyfriend returns. The ex-convict is obsessed in reestablishing his relationship with his girlfriend while the boy who is observing it is recording their every move. Starring Rachel Weisz, Alessandro Nivola, Luka Petrusic, and Labina Mitevska. I Want You is a sexy, harrowing drama from Michael Winterbottom and company.
After an eight-year sentence for murder, Martin (Alessandro Nivola) returns to his home in the north of England as he has to maintain reports with his parole officer Sonja (Geraldine O'Rawe). Martin hopes to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend Helen (Rachel Weisz) who works as a hairdresser at a salon while her boyfriend Bob (Ben Daniels) is a radio DJ. Meanwhile, a 14-year old Slavic mute named Honda (Luka Petrusic) has fallen for Helen as he lives with his older sister Smokey (Labina Mitevska) who is a local club singer. Martin's obsession leads to troubling phone calls and a tryst with a stripper (Dee Dee Menta) who dances the song I Want You by Elvis Costello & the Attractions.
While Honda befriends Helen who is dealing with her own troubles with Bob, Honda and Smokey pull a prank on Bob as he later meets Martin who would surprise Helen at a club she attends. Helen is surprised by Martin's appearance as she talks to Honda about what Martin did eight years ago. Martin and Smokey embark on an affair as she reveals about Honda's strange behavior as he would often record conversations. Particularly at a night when Martin visits Helen as they rekindle old passions leading to trouble circumstances where Honda learns what Martin had done eight years ago. After Helen learns what Honda knows, she tells him what really happened as she filed a complaint to Sonja leading to troubling confrontation between Martin and Helen with Honda witnessing everything.
The film in many ways is about obsession with the character of Helen being the object of desire. While the script definitely builds a momentum of suspense to the third act, the twist that is unveiled doesn't live up to its climax. Yet, it goes back to the theme of guilt that is talked about during the film. Even through the perspective of Smokey and Honda. The character of Honda as the film's main observer shows how he interprets things through his mind and recordings.
It's where Michael Winterbottom chooses to focus where he is telling this story of an obsession relationship between a man and a woman from the perspective of a third-party outsider. Winterbottom's direction is unique for its imagery and moods to show where the characters are emotionally. Particularly Honda who sees things in a blurry, grainy look where his own interpretation of these situations is more interesting than the protagonists. While the film has a creepy tone that might turn off some audiences, it's Winterbottom's direction and compositions through the locations that makes the film worth watching.
Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak creates an array of colorful palettes ranging from bright yellow to convey the outside scenery of north England to blueish colors in the sequences involving water and such. Even the color green at one point for a scene in an aquarium as well as blurry, grainy images for the mind of Honda. Editor Trevor Waite also channels the film's emotional tone to bring a unique rhythm to the film's fantasy sequences from the mind of Honda to more suspenseful pacing throughout the entire film.
Art directors David Bowes and David Bryan along with production designer Mark Tildesley create unique looks to the film's location with the dilapidated home of Martin and Smokey to the more hotel-like home of Helen. Costume designer Rachel Fleming create a wonderful look with the clothes for both Rachel Weisz and Labina Mitevska for whatever social situation they're in. Sound editor Ian Wilson brings another technical highlight for the film's sound to represent the perspective of Honda, including a sequence of Honda listening to Martin and Helen making love through the song I Want You that is muffled a bit but has an emotional resonance.
The film's music features mostly a trip-hop like sound that is reminiscent of acts like Portishead and Massive Attack. With original music by Adrian Johnston and the band Rare, the music does have a hypnotic, moody feel to convey the drama. The soundtrack also features cuts by the Troggs, the late Kirsty MacColl, Julian Cope, Violet, One Dove, Travis, and Chakra. Then there's the film's title cut by Elvis Costello & the Attractions from their 1986 album Blood & Chocolate. The song's emotional, obsessive tone fits right in with the mood of the film as well as Martin's behavior.
The film's cast features a wonderful cast that includes Phyllida Law as a woman at hairdresser, Des McAleer as a flower salesman, Graham Crowden as Smokey and Honda's grandfather, Carmen Ejogo as Helen's salon friend Amber, and other small performances from Steve John Shepard and Dee Dee Menta. Ben Daniels is fine as Helen's DJ boyfriend Bob, who had hoped to sleep with her for so long until a prank broke them up. Geraldine O'Rawe is excellent as Martin's parole officer who tries to understand his behavior while continuing to warn him about contacting Helen.
Labina Mitevska is wonderful as the maternal Smokey who is trying to deal with her own loneliness as well as her little brother Honda. Mitevska also performs several of the original songs in the film as she have a voice that is similar to the trip-hop acts of the 90s. Luka Petrusic really gives the film's best performance as the mute boy Honda. Not saying a word throughout the entire film, Petrusic really shines with his expressions and observation as his character is the one that is the most interesting throughout the entire film.
American actor Alessandro Nivola is excellent as the creepy, obsessive Martin who is trying to deal with his own crimes along with the lost relationship with Helen. Rachel Weisz is in brilliant form as the beautiful Helen, who is trying to deal with the return of Martin as well as her own failed relationships with men only seeking comfort in Honda. Weisz exudes sexiness as well as the kind of depth her character needed to deal with the failure that is her relationship with Martin.
While it's not up to par with later films, I Want You is still an interesting, provocative film from Michael Winterbottom. Fans of Rachel Weisz will no doubt, see her in an early film role just before she would breakthrough into the mainstream a year later in The Mummy. While it's considered a minor effort of sorts for Michael Winterbottom. I Want You still has something to offer for those who enjoy complex storylines and wonderful images. In the end, I Want You is a fine effort from the talented, prolific Michael Winterbottom.
Michael Winterbottom Films: (Rosie the Great) - (Forget About Me) - (Under the Sun) - (Love Lies Bleeding) - (Family (1993 TV film)) - (Butterfly Kiss) - (Go Now) - (Jude) - Welcome to Sarajevo - (With or Without You (1998 film)) - Wonderland (1999 film) - The Claim - 24 Hour Party People - In This World - Code 46 - 9 Songs - Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story - The Road to Guantanamo - A Mighty Heart - Genova - The Shock Doctrine (2009 film) - The Killer Inside Me - The Trip (2010 film) - (Trishna) - (Everyday) - The Look of Love - (The Trip to Italy) - (The Face of An Angel)
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