Pretend That You Love Me

Pretend That You Love Me ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I deliberated for a long time over how to write this review and I ultimately decided I'll just say what I can and acknowledge that it wouldn't be possible or practical to fully express how this film made me feel.

This film is on YouTube. It's free to watch and yet I would have gladly paid for the experience had I known what it would be like. Although it's nothing like 99% of what's on YouTube, it doesn't feel entirely out of place. The low budget adds to this, definitely giving it an equal-parts sporadic/improvised and directed/scripted feel.

The first forty minutes or so of the film are essentially a singular experience. It's the same thing over and over again but with enough slight variation that the film stays interesting and 'switches up' precisely when it needs to, right when things begin to get stale. At this point I wasn't exactly sure what was coming next, I had grown so accustomed to the formula of the first 40 minutes that the transition gave a similar sense of intrigue that the first few minutes of the film did. Major props to the actresses, I want to know how they found out about the film because they all fit really well.

*More important spoilers from here on* Certain parts hit me like a ton of bricks. During the first part I actually paused it and cleaned my room a little just to dissipate the restless leg syndrome and sense of nervous elation this film gave me. The second part made me feel like I aged 10 years and I didn't dare leave my seat. In late February my family became one less and I think the sudden time shifts really capture that feeling of "going, going, gone." The speech Joel gave was wonderful.

The interplay between the film, the creation of the film, the reflection on the creation of the film, etc, was masterful and felt like staring at an M.C. Escher drawing. It's still hard to know what was "fake" and "real," but in the context of Joel's experience throughout the film those labels don't really matter because it all feels "real." Is Joel always acting in the film? Does he act at all in the film? It's all irrelevant, and this is something that can really only be done with a project of this scale. Chris Pratt could never bring his camera into his orthopedist's. And the way the last fifteen minutes return to that comfort and then pull out the rug from under you with raw emotion, it's really something special.