We start at the end as three young lovers jump around in their underwear on a bed in Italy. The voice we hear is of a French woman (Anne-Laure Jardry)—our assumption being that it’s the woman on-screen remembering what was. And why shouldn’t it? We’ve yet to meet Christine (Cristina Rambaldi) or the two men by her side (Mattia Minasi’s Marcello and Neyssan Falahi’s Nassim). All we know is that this scene depicts their final moment of unbridled excitement before the complexity of the world they dreamed to conquer together returns them to the uncertainty that ultimately set them onto their collision course in the first place. We subsequently rewind to watch Marcello and Nassim finally cross Christine’s path. She’s American. The narrator is presumedly someone else.
This reality is a bit disorienting because the narration feels as though it comes from someone who was there—someone who really knows. We get used to it as time progresses because the characters are allowed to interact in real-time and propel their combined stories forward themselves, but the confusion eventually sets in again when the woman explains how she’s “not going to let” two people currently on-screen talk. Is this voice therefore the director’s? Has Svetlana Cvetko (who co-writes with David Scott Smith) injected herself into the proceedings as a means to mold this journey as she sees fit in the moment? Maybe. I actually enjoyed this possibility because it leans into the loose nature of the whole by adding a level of improvisation. Alas it’s not.
I won’t ruin the answer. I’ll just say it’s an interesting choice that doesn’t wholly work. Taking that even further, I’ll also say that very little of the ending to Show Me What You Got does. I’m not talking about its over-arching narrative evolution—that is pretty spot-on as far as where love, lust, and understanding takes Christine, Marcello, and Nassim. I mean the details considering many appear too abrupt and casual despite the heavy dramatic weight that can’t simply be spoken of in passing as the runtime winds down. It’s as though Cvetko knew the moment arrived where this trio must take what they’ve learned in each other’s arms on the road to finally build individual identities and thought throwing a couple grenades in would be fun.
While that aftermath ends up feeling rushed, the resulting contrivance doesn’t ruin the overall experience. It’s all too charming of an adventure with romance and compassion sweeping these characters together whether they intended it to or not. Is a moment when Christine and Marcello are about to have sex before she stops and says it’s too soon alluding to her wanting their first time to be with Nassim? I’d like to think so. I’d like to believe that she knew it was all or nothing the moment these men walked into the coffeeshop where she works. And why not? These are Europeans in Los Angeles with an obvious non-sexual affinity for each other already. Why not believe her addition sparks a ménage à trois in body and spirit?
That it unfolds so naturally in its intimacy and consent only confirms the thought. Cvetko isn’t therefore interested in mining what it means for these three to get together. That they join is inevitable. It’s what this relationship gives them that matters. So when Christine takes Marcello over to Nassim to grab the latter’s hand while kissing the former, there isn’t any awkwardness. When both men are in bed kissing her face before finding themselves about to kiss each other, there’s barely a second of hesitation. Taboo and “norms” are thrown out the window so the emotionally resonant roller coaster ride they’re on can push forward without distraction. Outsiders can think whatever they want. To these three, what they have is exactly what they’ve always craved.
We’re now able to go along with them without wondering if it’s “wrong.” There’s no room for “wrong” in their love because this isn’t a soap opera. The narrator tries infusing some drama by speaking for one of the men when circumstances have him singled out as “top dog,” but even that is played more for humor (and to be quickly refuted) than to introduce a rift. The sole question is thus whether or not it can last—not because of jealousy or betrayal, but because this trio is literally from three very disparate places. So when Nassim’s connection to Iran and Marcello’s to Italy beckon them to return, it would be tough to imagine Christine landing with just one when returning to America alone makes more sense.
What we have is a crossroad tryst wherein all three down-on-their-luck romantics serendipitously find an answer no matter how brief it might prove. Marcello is stuck in purgatory as his famous father’s international go-between with no ambition to start his own career outside that shadow. Nassim is wondering if his ten years in America have run their course even though he dreads a return home under the belief that it would be as a failure. And Christine is a week removed from her grandfather’s death—wealthy in friends and activities, but poor in concrete solutions. In each other they find support and purpose. In their love they find a reason to both ignore the past in the moment and confront it so as to prepare their communal future.
Such lofty ambitions are almost always a fantasy, though. That doesn’t mean it won’t come true (or attempt to before fate steps in). It just means that the perfect storm that’s brought them together isn’t necessarily going to be able to sustain them. Rambaldi is great as the woman in the middle acting as the glue, but she’s mostly going along for the ride after it ignites. The electric force driving them forward is thus supplied by Minasi and Falahi. They’re the ones with somewhere else to go and something else to do. It’s their reflective tug-of-war between pasts and futures that give this trio the energy necessary to evolve. And it’s those options that ultimately risk the throuple’s demise—just not before a summer they’ll never forget.
Show Me What You Got will open in virtual cinemas on February 12.