Last year, Julia Hart caught my attention with her film Fast Color, and I’m still baffled why that science-fiction thriller didn’t get more attention. This week, her thriller I’m Your Woman opens at Grand Berry Theater and also becomes available on Amazon Prime. While this isn’t science fiction, it’s similarly built around the concept of a woman on the run. I don’t find that this holds together as well as Fast Color, but there’s enough here to impress if you should be new to her filmmaking.
Our alarmingly passive protagonist is Jean (Rachel Brosnahan), a housewife in the late 1970s who wanders around in a medicated haze. She knows that her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) is a criminal of some sort, but since his work has bought her a nice house to live in, she doesn’t ask questions. Nor does she probe too deeply when Eddie responds to her infertility diagnosis by bringing home a baby boy and saying, “He’s ours!” What finally does prod her into inquisitiveness is when one of Eddie’s friends arrives at her house late at night, hands her a bag of cash, and informs her that she has to pack up and leave in 15 minutes. She and the baby are left in the custody of another friend named Cal (Arinzé Kene), whom she has never met before. With no word from Eddie about whether he’s safe or where he is, Cal drives her to points unknown, only knowing that law enforcement and Eddie’s criminal acquaintances are looking for her.
This film doesn’t need to run 120 minutes. It takes entirely too long to start moving the plot, and establishing that Jean is a cork bobbing in a stream shouldn’t take that much time. Nor does the revelation of Eddie’s secret former life land the way it should. Fast Color had some supernatural business and cool effects to cover up for its slower bits, but this film doesn’t have that to lean on. Admitting that I haven’t seen Brosnahan’s performances on TV’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I have to say that she seems a bit lost with such a passive character who’s terrified of being on her own, which she must do after Cal deposits her at a safehouse in a big city.
Good thing Hart has a way with set pieces, as you can see in a slow-rolling sequence when Jean comes downstairs in that safehouse late at night and finds the front door open. Hart and her writing partner and husband Jordan Horowitz are savvy enough to know that a Black man and a white woman traveling together in the 1970s will attract some unwanted attention, and from that they extract a nice scene where Jean lies their way out of a hostile encounter with a cop. The story spends a great deal of time on the highways and deep in the countryside, so it’s downright surreal when Cal’s wife (Marsha Stephanie Blake) takes Jean to a disco in the city, and Hart captures the terror that spreads around Jean when some guys with guns walk in the front door and start shooting up the place. The climactic car chase on the city’s back streets is neatly turned, too.
I don’t begrudge any up-and-coming directors for doing a tentpole superhero movie, though I do hate that that has become the default move to the big leagues. However, Julia Hart is one director whose skill set precisely matches up with what that genre needs. Her movies give you the familiar pleasures of a thriller while being told unmistakably from a woman’s point of view. They feel different without feeling too different, and Hart would be perfect behind the camera the next time an A-list actress is in the mood to headline an action thriller. Let’s hope that her steadily building body of work gives her that chance.
I’m Your Woman
Starring Rachel Brosnahan and Arinzé Kene. Directed by Julia Hart. Written by Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz. Rated R.