“Forgiveness doesn’t heal the wounds of the past; it transforms them.”
Lisa Azuelos’s I Love America is structured as a rom-com, but that is really just the pretty clothing put on to attract us to a story of grief and healing. In a sense it is a story of being lost and not knowing it. So it makes it all the more important to have been found.
Lisa (Sophie Marceau) is a fifty year old film director who has come to L.A. to write a screenplay, although there is much more going on in her life. Her children are grown, and her mother, a famous singer who abandoned her for a career, has just died. But this trip is not just business. When she is asked at immigration what the purpose of her trip is, she replies “I want to start a new life.”
On arrival she connects with her best friend Luka (Djanis Bouzyani), who has thrived in L.A. as the owner of a drag night club. Luka is determined to restart Lisa’s sex life, and sets her up on a dating app. Luka has his own dating issues and while finding many partners, never finding one who will love him. But soon Lisa finds a great match in John (Colin Woodell). Their relationship grows quickly, but of course in true rom-com fashion, hits a serious roadblock.
But the film also flashes back frequently to Lisa’s childhood and teen years. Each of those flashbacks show us a bit of her sense of abandonment by her mother. Although she speaks of not feeling anything when her mother dies, we see in the flashbacks the great love she had for her mother, even if it wasn’t returned. This has become an important part of who Lisa has become, even if she doesn’t recognize it. A telling line (that isn’t emphasized, but clearly matters) is when she tells a date, “I created my kids to make sure somebody loves me in this world.” Perhaps it’s said in jest, but it is a very real sentiment. It reflects both her love for her mother and the lack her mother’s love.
As the film plays out, it is by embracing the feelings—both love and anger—that Lisa held for her mother that allows her to move on into new relationships that are based in trust and being trusted. She and Luka each learn that there is more to love that just immediate experience and connecting sexually with others. It is more important, they find, to connect emotionally. It is then that love can have a chance to bloom.
I Love America is streaming on Prime Video.