All Over Me (1997)
Written by Sylvia Sichel
Directed by Alex Sichel
My second film for the #52filmsbywomen challenge I’ve taken on for 2016 (watching one movie a week by a woman for the entire year) is a favorite film of mine, a re-watch of Alex and Sylvia Sichel’s All Over Me. I saw this film for the first time in the late 90’s. It was not in the theaters when I found it, but on the shelves of Tower Records video section, the store I worked in, though this was about a year after I’d quit. The movie hit me hard, and in a very personal way, and quickly became one of my favorite movies, one I referenced a lot in the late 90’s/early 00’s, because of its impact on me.
At the time I first watched the film I saw it as a story of coming to terms with your sexuality, and with who you are. It was very coming-of-age to me, but in a way that I hadn’t seen very often. Claude’s awkwardness, her struggles to be herself, and the people who had an impact on her coming-of-age all made this a rich and colorful, and realistic, story to me. I was dealing with my own confusion of who I was as a person. I’d made such big decisions as a young person, moving out for the first time with a guy/in a relationship, having a child at what felt like a young age to me, deciding on a reality that I was now questioning. This movie felt like doors opening and options presenting themselves to me.
Watching it now, though I do see the things I saw them, I notice other things, too. The toxic friendship is what stood out to me this time. There are quite a few movies that I can think of, written and/or directed by women, about toxic female friendship, a situation that I know I have been in, and I think many of my female friends have been in (I am not excluding males in this, just speaking from this lens right now – and my experiences).
Ellen uses Claude, and adds to her confusion, giving her mixed messages to help build her own esteem up. Claude gives in to Ellen, giving of herself, and taking what she can because of her feelings, her attraction, her love for Ellen. Neither side of this is healthy, or without a share of the blame of toxicity. Its too easy to villianize Ellen, but Claude has a part in it, too. I would like to see Ellen’s side of the story, but I know this is Claude’s story here, and I appreciate that, too.
There are so many subtle dynamics in this film. Emotions that are complex and complicated, and personal that often are not shown in movies. I see stories like this more in books, but not so much on the screen. I do think the female gaze helps here tremendously, giving life to the adolescent female friendship, and how tangled it can be. I do wonder, though, or maybe want is more the right word, if there can be some films about young women that show positive female friendships, too.
My friendships with women have been complicated, sure, and at times toxic. But, I have had some wonderful friendships, too, that have outlasted any and all love relationships I’ve had, who have helped to shape the person I am, and also have offered tremendous support when I’ve gone through struggles, successes and changes in my life. I would love to see a film, penned and helmed by women, that illustrates one of those friendships in adolescence (recommendations of ones that exist accepted).
Also, can we see Allison Folland in more films, please?