THE MAN ON HER MIND (2014)
Starring Amy McAllister, Samuel James, Georgia Mackenzie, Shane Attwooll, Bronwen Hruska, Martin Hyde and Jordan Wouk.
Screenplay by Alan Hruska.
Directed by Bruce Guthrie and Alan Hruska.
Distributed by Paladin Films. 98 minutes. Not Rated.
There’s an old, old song by the Atlanta Rhythm Section that started with the stanza, “Imaginary lovers never turn you down. When all the others turn you away, they’re around. It’s my private pleasure, midnight fantasy, someone to share my wildest dreams with me.”
That’s both kind of a seductive idea and kind of really sad at the same time.
Everyone has fantasies about romance and sex, but at what point does it go from harmless imagination to something a bit more disturbed and disturbing? Is it possible to fulfill someone’s needs or make them happy in life? And if it does make the person happy, then who is getting hurt?
(Those questions are not meant to be completely rhetorical, I can’t claim to completely know that there is one hard and fast answer to them, though I may have a personal opinion.)
The Man on Her Mind has an opinion on the subject as well. In fact, it appears to have more than one conflicting opinion about it. It uses the dichotomy between fantasy and reality as a barometer of the confused state of modern relationships. I wish I could say the film makes some huge breakthroughs, but honestly it is only a somewhat successful look at modern love and the fear of intimacy.
The Man on Her Mind is based on a play that ran in 2012 in London. The writer Alan Hruska has decided to expand the film to the screen to make his film (co-)directing debut. The original cast appears in the film as well, though taking on perfect US accents, as the play is based in New York.
Its theatrical background is rather obvious, in the writing (the dialogue is smart and funny and often just a hair too pithy for real life), the very limited cast (only four actors log significant screen time) and even the settings, which are basically limited to five places: her apartment, his house, her sister’s house, a park and eventually the sisters’ childhood apartment.
The above-mentioned her is Nellie (Amy McAllister), a plain, single, 30-ish New York book editor. She’s something of a loner, completely jaded about dating and relationships. She has been ducking the increasingly frantic romantic advances of Leonard (Samuel James), an eccentric novelist (he’s been living in a house for seven months and hasn’t unpacked at all) who met Nellie at the home of her sister Janet (Georgia McKenzie), who happens to be his new neighbor.
Leonard is so head over heels for Nellie that he has created a Nellie in his head, who has become his friend, lover and confidant.
And Nellie also has an imaginary paramour. Oddly, her knight in shining armor is Jack, a spitting image of Leonard, if he spiffed himself up, grew some confidence and bought a power suit. She is sometimes disturbingly frank about her fantasy romantic and sexual escapades with the people around her.
Frank wants to get to know Nellie because he wants what he has in his head to be real life. Nellie doesn’t want to know Frank because she is afraid that getting to know him will kill her fantasy version.
Then the imaginary lovers meet each other in an attempt to act as matchmakers for their people, and find a certain attraction for each as well.
Suddenly we’re having a huge scandalous love do-se-do taking place between two people.
The Man on Her Mind is extremely well-written, terrifically acted and sometimes quite astute about relationships. Yet whether the film will work for you all comes down the question of whether you find the idea of your two main characters having imaginary friends with benefits sweetly whimsical or kind of creepy.
Jay S. Jacobs