Written and directed by Sean Mannion
Starring Sarah Schoofs, Shivantha Wijesinha and Lauren A. Kennedy
Running time: 1 hour and 27 minutes
by Emily Maesar
Meme is the feature film debut from writer/director Sean Mannion. And after watching this flick, I want nothing more than to see what his last ten years of short films were all about.
The film is about Jessica, a graphic designer living in New York with her boyfriend of eight years, who’s obsessed with VHS tapes. Their relationship is stagnating, though. It seems like they haven’t had sex, or at least good sex, in a while. She thinks the girl in her boyfriend’s group of VHS friends wants to fuck him, the freelance design job she’s doing is a nightmare and, to top it all off, she’s obsessed with finding the creator of this mash-up tape title “MEME.”
The obsession with VHS tapes, especially mash-ups, has all the trappings of being a drama version of V/H/S, sans horror, and it’s possible this film could have been that. Instead, the “adjust your tracking” elements of the film are carefully placed, interesting pieces of film making. And where the VHS connoisseurs of this film could have been obnoxious, nerdy archetypes, they, instead, simply remind me of dudes I knew from film school. Its specificity made it feel so universal, in a way that these kinds of indie films often do. When they hit, they smash - and this film hit like a rock through my windshield.
One of my favorite things is when Jennifer starts finding the subjects from the mash-up tape in her search to uncover why it was created. Their stories share similarities, though, beyond being in the same second of the tape, intercut. First, they were both being interviewed for a digital/higher tech than VHS purpose, despite their ideas being committed to the analog medium. Second, they’re both discussing the universe as a type of simulacrum - life being merely a representation or imitation of what we think it should be. And finally, my actual favorite bit of these, they both repeat to Jennifer (nearly) word-for-word what they said on the tape. Acting as this sort of déja vu for her, and for us.
It’s also a great version of the “shitty boyfriend with a specific interest” story. The arc of which usually continues on with the girlfriend using the shitty boyfriend’s hobby to both emancipate and find herself, which Jennifer does in spectacular fashion. Ultimately, this film is about choices and how messy the necessary choices we have to make in order to improve our lives can be. You can be stuck forever, repeating the same ideas over and over again… or you can escape a prison of your own making. Sometimes, you just need a little nudge.
Meme is what I hoped it would be. It’s interesting, well performed and complete as a story. Sean Mannion edited it with purpose. So while it’s weird, they’re all choices that serve Jennifer’s story. It feels a bit like a mix between the best student film you’ve seen and your favorite small, personal indie flick - and that really, really worked for me. What it lacks in viable searchability as a film because of the title (honestly, my biggest issue with the film), it makes up for in that it’s a quality flick. Although... those SEO issues might be brilliant in a way, because this film is going to exist by word-of-mouth, much like the mash-up tapes and old movies only available on VHS. Mannion has created something very special and you should see it, if you can.
Meme will be released digitally on October 8 on iTunes and Vimeo. Find more information here.