In describing the movie as a sexualized thriller residing in the ambiguous territory between fantasy and reality, Use Me sets the audience up for one ride – while delivering another. It’s just one part of the overall misdirection that makes this film so interesting.
I viewed the film at it’s Brooklyn Film Fest world premiere and was immediately sucked into the story. But it’s taken me a full day of replaying the film in my head to realize what I saw was not what I watched. Like a magician using his skills to distract the audience’s attention, the film’s more obvious story deflects the viewer’s attention from where the real magic is occurring — just outside the story. Only at the end does that magic unfold to the surprise and delight the audience. The hints as to how that magic will eventually manifest itself are there throughout the movie, but as with any good magic show, the audience is not fully aware of what it is watching.
And that’s the genius of this film.
The main themes of the movie are planted early on in the film. Julian’s ambitious pursuit of the American dream as a documentary film maker and Ceara’s morally ambiguous work are the obvious threads that drive the story forward. For those familiar with Ceara’s work, the first 30 minutes may be slow. For those not familiar with her work, those 30 minutes are sure to be fascinating as they provide insight into a bizarre world of online sexual fantasy play most are unaware even exists. Whether familiar with that world or not, the viewer should watch closely. There is meaning in even the mundane. Little noticed clues speak to those themes which only broach the audience’s consciousness once the layers of reality are peeled back at the end of the film to reveal the truth.
The film is a tapestry of all those layers of reality which define who we are – loathsomeness, arrogance, deceit, greed, fear, love. Layers so tightly woven together they create a single psyche. A psyche that, for the maladjusted person, is hard to comprehend let alone repair. The film dances around, then delves deeply, into the complex psyche of Julian, the director and producer of this pseudo-documentary. And it is here, in Julian’s reality, the story unfolds and where, at it’s core, the film becomes less about Ceara the humiliatrix and more about Ceara the healer. Less about selfish manipulation and damnation and more about selfless affection and redemption. Once the truth is known to the audience, words and scenes take on different meaning. A forceful reproach of Julian, “You know nothing!” strikes at the deeper reality of truth. Viewer sympathy shifts during an argument between Julian and Ceara once the ultimate truth is known. Like a densely written book, this film deserves a second or third viewing to fully appreciate and understand just how intricately both the visible and the mostly unseen themes are woven together.
Julian describes his job as a documentary film maker as ‘uncovering the truth.’ One truth not addressed in the film is a man’s desires to have others rejoice in the good in which he rejoices. I think Julian, upon deciding to make this film about Ceara Lynch, was expecting to find moral decadence and the worst common parts of humanity. Instead what he unexpectedly found was goodness. And I think he made movie so that he might share his rejoice with others.
Oh. One final thing. If you’re wondering whether Julian ever finds that layer of reality called the American Dream, well you decide.