Steven (Peter Dinklage) is struggling, which may be an understatement as he’s an opera composer who has been in the clutches of writer’s block for five years straight. In the opening moments of She Came To Me, we see him at an event, hiding from people because the word going around is that he had a nervous breakdown during his last composition. The anxiety and nervousness pour out of his body as his wife Patricia (Anne Hathaway) attempts to calm him down. She was once his psychiatrist, after all.
In all actuality, She Came To Me is a film full of complicated people, long-gestating issues, and limited ways to solve them. Witnessing the many ideas and types of characters writer/director, Rebecca Miller looks to tackle within this twist entirely and turns New York rom-com is admirable. However, there comes the point where the film’s lofty goals are too much weight to bear – often needing to focus on one particular relationship to pull the rest together. Much of Steven’s steps are ordered by the minutes and hours of self-loathing, wondering if he will ever find inspiration again. His union with Patricia seems fine on the surface, but there’s not much to it. If anything, their relationship looks pretty orderly and situational.
Patricia has her issues bubbling to the surface. She’s a neat freak fighting with a reawakening of her faith and thoughts of becoming a nun. In what is probably one of Steven’s many freakouts, Patricia pushes Steven out the door with their dog for him to go on a walk and get some fresh air. This leads him to a local pub, where he meets Katrina (Marisa Tomei), a tugboat captain with attachment issues (she lets him know early on). Despite these warnings, some spark leads to a quick fling on Katrina’s boat. The scenario leads to the burst of inspiration Steven needs – even as it comically depicts Katrina’s intentions as a devourer of men.
This right here would be the weighty basis of a film by itself. You have a man who will eventually have to explain to his significant other who his actual muse is and look for ways to rectify that. However, She Came To Me doesn’t give you a sense Patricia’s character would even be phased by this revelation. She’s often on her journey of self-discovery by her lonesome. If that wasn’t complicated enough, there’s an instance of young, idealistic love that seeks to join everything together. However, it feels like an outlier when it’s all said and done.
Patricia’s song and Steven’s stepson Julian (Evan Ellison) is madly in love with Tereza (Harlow Jane). Other than getting straight A’s and looking to make a word that is climate change compliant in the future, they personify a non-tainted love that only considers everything that can go right. Magdalena (Joanna Kulig) just so happens to be Patricia’s housemaid, even though Patricia insists on cleaning her house alongside her. It’s a device for families to find out if their children are dating one another. Tereza’s uptight buzzkill of a stepfather, Trey (Brian D’Arcy James), doubles as a court stenographer and Civil War reenactor. His racist tendencies show once he finds out and discover they both are sexually active, and with Julian just turning 18 (Tereza is 16), he decides to press charges to split them up.
With the teen love story, there’s supposed to be a feeling of love conquering all that doesn’t get enough time to fully resonate as to why it’s so crucial to the main story. If anything, Dinklage and Tomei are the ones who get space to ride the “will they, won’t they” wave of romance uncertainty. Katrina’s love addiction gains more exploration attached to Steven’s need for something (or someone) to help him come alive again. The operas that result in these revelations are well done and the results of concerted efforts to summarize the story. At one point, things try to hone in on Magdalena’s immigrant background and wanting Tereza not to be clouded by her relationship. Julian has a similar conversation with Patricia, but she’s so emotionally drained that it doesn’t go anywhere. The interweaving of contrasts and even mirror images should have worked, but instead, do the polar opposite.
Love can heal and push buried creative endeavors to the forefront, but can’t save the world. At least not in the way She Came To Me intends it to.