“Do I look old to you?”
“No. Yes. How old?”
“Older than I am. Older than 27.”
“No. 27 is old, though.”
Here’s a little story: I first saw this on my 27th birthday. It was at a free screening a friend I didn’t know very well (but knew better then, than I do now) had invited me to. She didn’t know it was my birthday, until after, when I mentioned the coincidence of seeing this on my 27th birthday. 27 is a weird age to be. But I don’t think I’ve come far in the last 3 years.
Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach (and co-written with Greta Gerwig who plays the titular Frances), follows a New York woman in her late 20s, stumbling through life as she tries to follow her dream of being a dancer, and navigate relationships, particularly with her best friend, Sophie. Since I first saw it, it’s become one of my favourites and this will be more of a personal post than a review of the film.
I recently watched this again, because I was feeling sad about my life, but the irony is that Frances? She has her life way more together than I do. So, it didn’t make me feel much better, except that it also did because, I do see a lot of myself in Frances. (Something a lot of people like to sneer at – how cliched, how woman-child of me, how awful to find comfort in seeing myself in a flawed fictional character!) I’m undateable, I’m a mess, I feel like my peers are so far ahead of me.
But it mostly made me sad because I feel so disconnected from my friends. I think this is something I’ve always felt, or felt for a long time, but my social circle is getting smaller and smaller the older I get.
I love, though, how this shows friendship in a way I feel so many other films still don’t (even, yes, ones about women). As something to prioritise but also the tenderness between Frances and Sophie, the betrayal Frances feels, that’s usually reserved for lovers onscreen. I’ve seen people comment on how Frances looks at Sofie, that this isn’t how we look at our friends but…isn’t it?
Actually, I was thinking of how I like watching interviews or seeing photos of celebrities with their friends, and seeing that adoration in their eyes when they look at each other. There’s a gorgeous photo of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain that I think is a beautiful illustration of that.
Anyway, what I’m saying is, isn’t it nice to see media that doesn’t have such a strict definition of what friendship is meant to look like, how it should be written? I’m so tired of the narrow view of friendship that exists even in so-called progressive circles. Friends do give us butterflies in our stomachs, stars in our eyes, they break our hearts and hold our hands. They’re our soul mates.
(That’s not to say this reflects my own friendships with women (or anyone). Far from it. Maybe as a teen but not as an adult. I rarely hug my friends. I’ve told my best friend I love her once in twelve years after her wedding (other friends more but only in response if they say it first and not actually because I want to but because I feel like I have to). I’m emotionally constipated and can only communicate to my friends via pop cultural references half the time, but it doesn’t mean I love them any less. But that’s why I want to see more varied and nuanced portrayals of friendship – because they’re as complex as the humans involved in them are. Sometimes they are sharing the same bed, sometimes they’re not seeing each other for months on end.)
I’m not saying their relationship can’t be interpreted other ways (I encourage it – I love the way everyone will read movies and other media differently) but I balk at the idea that friendship cannot, or should not, look like this. It seems a very narrow view to me and I think it’s important to break down the idea of what certain relationships ‘should’ look like, so we can start to build relationships that work for us as individuals.