That’s Not Us by screenwriter/director William C. Sullivan has previously screen at Inside Out (Ottawa LGBT film festival), Outfest (Los Angeles LGBT film festival), ImageOut (Rochester LGBTQ film festival), and Frameline (San Francisco LGBT film festival), so it is coming in with some street cred. Sullivan has taken a simple story of three couples heading off to an island for a late summer beach house weekend and made it into a realistic examination of different kinds of relationships – heterosexual, lesbian and gay. What is really enjoyable about the film is that nothing is made of the “different” types of relationships; it all seems normal.
This is a film filled with accessible characters and has a pleasingly natural feel about it. Because, as you know, a film of this sort could have come off as a Friends rip-off with plenty of silly comedy and unrelatable situations. Instead this film really focuses on the humans involved and how they are dealing with the different challenges their relationships are facing.
On one of the last summerlike weekends in September a group of twentysomething friends from New York City decide to spend it at a beach house on Fire Island. The house in a gated community belongs to Jackie’s (Nicole Pursell – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) aunt. Jackie has not been there since she was 6. After a little hiccup finding the place and getting inside the three couples settle in. Liz (Elizabeth Gray – first film) and Dougie (Tommy Nelms) have sex right away which seems to bother Jackie. Her girlfriend Alex (Sarah Wharton – Jane Wants a Boyfriend), who is also Liz’s sister, is less bothered as she realizes the couple is still in the honeymoon phase. A few moments later Jackie discovers that Alex has brought a rainbow coloured dildo on the trip and is noticeably disturbed by it. James (Mark Berger – first film) and Spencer (David Rysdahl – first feature film) live together. There is some tension between the two because Spencer has been accepted to grad school in Chicago.
Each couple has its issues. Being away from the city and the distractions of everyday life seems to bring these problems right to the surface. Each of the couples is going to have plenty of frank discussions about sex and their relationships. Are the couples unhappy and headed from breakups or are they all just facing normal bumps in the road?
The realism of the film comes from the fact that it was shot quickly over 8 days and almost entirely improvisational as there was really no script just an outline of what Sullivan wanted. The actors all do a good job with some tricky scenes.
Love and relationships are looked at from a rather different point of view here. It shows that no matter what gender or sexuality relationships are tricky things that involve plenty of struggles to keep alive. Rarely is long term relationships looked at with such depth. We usually only get the beginnings of relationships or the end never the middle part which is in many ways the hardest part.
Despite the fact that each of the three couples is in love their relationships are still rocky. Several of the multitudes of reasons for trouble in relationships are looked at. Communication, which is sometimes so difficult for humans, is the only way to get out of these problems even if what is said is “I don’t know”. Each member of the couples discovers that telling the other how they are feeling is really not that scary and problems seem smaller when communication is open.