SHE CAME TO ME. Dinklage, Kulig and Hathaway star in romantic comedy

Rebecca Miller’s “She Came to Me” is a trivial, multi-threaded romantic comedy.

Jan Brzozowski

16 March 2024

The review was originally written on February 18, 2023, after the film screening at the Berlinale.

Berlin can be overwhelming. It’s a labyrinthine behemoth where, let’s not beat around the bush, it’s very easy to get lost. Navigating the right path is aided by a superbly organized public transport system – trains, trams, buses crisscrossing the city, and of course, the reliable metro, which took me to Potsdamer Platz to collect my festival accreditation. It’s a shame that the Berlinale isn’t organized as efficiently as public transportation, especially its online reservation system, which allowed me to sign up for screenings that, as it turned out, I couldn’t attend. I found out about this upon arrival, bouncing off the cinema doors and a nice lady, awkwardly explaining that she herself didn’t know why it happened. I hold my phone with the tickets in my hand, but I still can’t enter – the wrong piece of plastic hangs around my neck. It happens. Either way, a quick change of plans was needed. The Berlinale gods, previously rather indifferent, now smiled upon me – a little cinematic miracle allowed me to attend “She Came to Me,” the opening film of this year’s edition, later that same evening.

There wasn’t much time for contemplation, as the screening took place almost on the other side of the city. That’s one of the charms of the Berlinale – film screenings span practically the entire metropolis. The celebration of cinema is truly felt here at every step – in what other city’s metro can you watch excerpts from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”? Nevertheless, I arrived at the cinema, or rather the musical theater, ahead of time. I settled comfortably in my seat, ready for the film. However, there was one more, not particularly pleasant surprise waiting for me – an almost two-hour broadcast of the festival’s opening ceremony. Watching this red carpet bazaar of vanity, masquerading under a socio-political facade, elicits mixed feelings. The hosts joke around, accompanied by speeches directly referencing the war in Ukraine or women’s protests in Iran. Sean Penn strides onto the stage, Volodymyr Zelensky appears on the screen. Standing ovations. Some guests wipe away tears, others seem to yawn – unlucky to be caught by the camera at that moment. There’s a semblance of seriousness, but it needs to be quickly defused with some stale joke, perhaps about someone’s hairstyle – after all, we’re all here to have a good time. The ceremony goes on and on, the guy in front of me checks the showtimes for “Avatar: The Way of Water” on his phone, and I wonder if Cameron’s film wasn’t shorter than this unfortunate broadcast. Finally, the lights dim, the film begins, but people around me seem not to notice – two hours of decompression have made them chatter away during the first ten minutes of the screening. Berlinale.

Brain Damage Rick Hearst

I’m dedicating so much space to the circumstances surrounding my first screening in Berlin for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s an important event for me, and I feel the need to describe it. Secondly, because it’s difficult to write anything exciting about the film itself. Rebecca Miller’s “She Came to Me” is a trivial, multi-threaded romantic comedy. Peter Dinklage plays a tormented composer here, who, in search of inspiration, cheats on his wife, played by Anne Hathaway, with Marisa Tomei, portraying an obsession-ridden ship captain. Added to this is the relationship between Hathaway’s son and a girl who turns out to be the daughter of her maid – an immigrant from Poland. And there it is: a comedy of errors ready-made.

The spirit of late Allen hangs over everything. A stylized New York through the lens, a distinct set of characters, absurd plot twists. Unfortunately, the word “late” is crucial in the context of the film’s quality. Miller fails to do anything interesting with the palette of characters she introduced. All the relationships between them are predictable and well-polished. The dialogues don’t help – the director may be the daughter of Arthur Miller, but she doesn’t seem to possess her father’s literary skills. Family quarrel scenes in Teresa’s house leave us completely indifferent, and Joanna Kulig’s artificially bad accent and wild mixture of English with Polish make them watchable with a smile of embarrassment. Class and racial tensions (Anne Hathaway’s son is black) seem to appear, but only to be quickly muted or ignored. Miller shows that she’s not very interested in social cinema – and this honesty should be appreciated if “She Came to Me” offered something truly fresh and funny in return. But instead, it has only a mushy feel-good movie in store. A warm dumpling posing as an artistic film thanks to the star-studded cast and constant, unmotivated changes in aspect ratio.

She Came to Me - Movie - Where To Watch

Peter Dinklage finds himself best in this mishmash. The actor confirms his comedic potential, previously evident in “I Care a Lot” or “Death at a Funeral.” His storyline is definitely the most interesting and moving – it would work great as a separate short film. However, Joanna Kulig’s performance cannot be praised. In “She Came to Me,” the actress continues one of Poland’s most important export traditions – she becomes another incarnation of a tired Polish mother, thus taking the baton from Agnieszka Grochowska and Agata Kulesza. Of course, much of this is due to the poorly handled, hastily written character – Kulig should be cautious nonetheless. Although it’s fantastic to see her alongside stars like Dinklage, Hathaway, or Tomei, I’m convinced that if she continues to take on such roles, she will inevitably get stuck in a stereotype. Especially if they are roles in not particularly successful films.

Initially, I wanted to write that “She Came to Me” has little to do with the political dimension of the Berlinale; that perhaps a more fitting choice for the opening would have been a documentary by Sean Penn or Tomasz Wolski – both dedicated to the war on our eastern border. The opening gala made me realize that I might be wrong. “She Came to Me” fit into it perfectly in the end, being a seriously unserious film, where every tension must be quickly diffused so that the audience doesn’t feel too uncomfortable. In the accompanying gala, a several-minute speech by Zelensky – himself an actor by profession – waxed poetic via an online communicator about the power of cinema, recounting how it can influence human lives. It can compel people to act, to reflect, to make certain decisions. And then the film appeared on the screen, which may change only one thing in the viewers’ lives: the number of films they’ve watched.

Janek Brzozowski

Jan Brzozowski

Permanently sleep-deprived, as he absorbs either westerns or new adventure cinema at night. A big fan of the acting skills of James Dean and Jimmy Stewart, and the beauty of Ryan Gosling and Elle Fanning. He is also interested in American and French literature, as well as soccer.

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