The Chase is on. The Hunt. The restless quest to fulfill our own ideals of Love. On the streets of New York, as passing pedestrians vent their domestic dissatisfactions, a man leaves his wife and falls in love with a Siren.
As Joelle, the Narrator, makes a prophecy of domestic tragedy, Frank, 60’s, walks from a distant solitude through street steam to join the bundled ranks of December pedestrians on a busy city sidewalk.
He is soon flanked by two 30-ish Irish Construction Workers (CW1 and CW2) who, on their way to work, put down the pedestrians in Miami Beach for not knowing how to use their sidewalks properly.
A Street Troupe comprised of an actor dressed as a Bear and two Commedia dell’Arte clowns, Arlecchino and Arlechina, lip-sync and perform a pantomime of love to an opera duet in a dry city fountain. The Bear solicits money with a Treasure Chest and pours sand into a 7-foot hour-glass that has a huge rose attached to its side and top.
Lil, an unmarried Native New Yorker, rushes by the Street Troupe complaining to her Irish friend Rae, also unmarried, that her significant other won’t even talk to her. Rae says her very existence is at stake. Neither gives the Street Troupe money. Simultaneously, J, a twice- divorced Wall-Streeter, rushes past the Street Troupe complaining that his significant other won’t stop talking. His unmarried and younger colleague Helena says his very existence is at stake. She is also Irish. Neither gives the Street Troupe money.
Now on a path in Central Park, Lil complains she doesn’t get touched. Rae asks if she cooks for her man. Lil vehemently rejects that notion. CW1 tells CW2 the sexy difference between joggers in NYC and those in Miami Beach. The Beach wears grease. J and Helena, now in the FiDi District, exchange conflicting complaints of sex and compatibility that they have about their significant others. Walking the path, Lil tells Rae something forbidden about how her boy friend wants to make love to her. Rae is shocked.
Beneath a restaurant awning, a man from India talks on his cell about the amazing feet of his new woman.
Back in the FiDi, J tells Helena his ex-wives just wanted security and no sex. Helena says she could be with an older man. J suggests she would be rewarded. Ever on the path, Rae reveals to Lil how her relationship is unraveling. Lil sympathizes. Still in FiDi, Helena tempts J with the Domestic Ideal with her at the center. CW2 tells CW1 he’s on the verge of sexual insanity. Lil tells Rae another forbidden way her boyfriend wants to make love to her. Rae is shocked.
CW’s talk about Sirens. Not city sirens, but mythological ones. CW1 says you are surrounded in the city and have to pick. Helena confesses to J she could have more than one man and overrides his protest about fidelity. CW2 fantasizes about having three women. CW1 talks him down to two and puts CW2 in the context of the Romantic tale of Tristan and Isolde where there were two Isolde’s, one of whom will be your death, the other of whom will keep you alive. CW2 asks which Isolde did Tristan pick? CW1 says no-one made a choice. It was Fate because of the magic potion in the story. CW2 is unconvinced and thinks they knew what they were doing and made the choice to drink it and fall in love. CW1 then launches into his theory that we don’t make choices, we end up in them. This confuses CW2. He says he would have picked the bad Isolde just like Tristan. CW1 tries to talk him out of it by emphasizing the advantages of a life with the good Isolde to no avail. Both CW’s become silent as they think about choices. Helena tells J what attracts her to a man. A slim waist. J says he’s not slim. Helena says she may have to look lower. J is impressed and she doesn’t take it back.
The CW’s come upon a line of people waiting to get into a museum. CW2 goes off on a rant about passivity. CW1 says it’s their choice. CW2 revolts, throws CW1’s own words back at him that we can’t make choices, and contends we’re all stuck in the chase to nowhere just like the people in line are going nowhere. Both CW’s decide to bust loose and be free and run up the street.
J and Helena are in the Museum line. They discuss manscaping. Gilda, a 40-ish Korean wife and beauty asks Frank, who is also in line directly in front of her, if he has a ticket. She seems available, but Frank defers. In front of Frank in line is Arduino and Vita a young Italian couple who argue about Georgia O’Keeffe. Arduino maddens Vita by saying she only painted vaginas. He kisses her ear. She shrieks and Frank turns and sees Reyna, a sensual vision, walking past him with her husband, young son, and cousin. Frank follows her, leaving the museum line. Suddenly the only two people in the city are Frank and Reyna. He pursues her and she seems to know it, even encourage it. She leaves and he finds himself exiting an elevator and walking down the corridor to an apartment. He knocks. The door opens. It’s Reyna.
Frank introduces himself and gives her a bottle of wine and an envelope of money which she ignores. She offers him Champagne and as they sit on the sofa, her little dog, Mr. Mini enters the scene and breaks the ice. Reyna speaks to Mr. Mini in Spanish which surprises Frank. He learns she is MexicanAmerican and she playfully scolds Mr. Mini for interrupting them. Frank opens the Champagne and toasts to their surprise good fortune. Reyna offers a toast to transformation. They drink. She asks if he wants to take a shower. They go upstairs and make love. As Frank prepares to leave, he tells Reyna how much she opened him. She tells him she never comes on the first time but did with Frank. He leaves. Frank enters the elevator whose occupant is a young African-American man. They ride down in silence.
Frank makes another appointment to see Reyna and tells her how he loves being naked with her and that she’s an angel sent to him. Reyna detaches and isn’t prepared for what is happening between them. They see each other again, playfully spit their Champagne in each other’s face and, in a parting embrace, seal their intimacy. Frank enters the elevator and encounters an older couple from Romania who argue painfully about their marriage.
Frank is again with Reyna and traces her naked body as if discovering a constellation that he names Reyna. She reveals her real name, Emilia. During their next meeting, Emilia has prepared some food for Frank and asks if he’s married. Frank admits he is but predicts it won’t last because of his being with her. She doesn’t buy that and Frank daydreams about an argument he had with his wife Paula about some lingerie he had bought her that she refused to wear. Emilia tells Frank she has a son, Emilio, and asks if he has children. He says he has no-one but her and she breaks into laughter and he chases her up the stairs to bed.
It’s Frank’s birthday and Emilia has decorated her apartment for him with balloons. She is dressed like a wife and gives him a present, a shirt. He gives her a necklace and as he puts it on her in the mirror, she turns to him, kisses him and says she wishes they could go out into the world together as a couple. Frank freezes. Emilia reads the handwriting on the wall that quickly comes between them. He goes up the stairs to shower for sex. She takes out the lingerie Paula rejected and which Frank had given to her. Frank and Emilia go out of balance as she rebukes him for not washing his hands before picking up Mr. Mini. Frank protests her taking the dog out of his hands.
Frank now remembers only disjointed elements about their relationship that is falling into pieces. Frank enters the elevator now occupied by two escorts. One has a bruised eye and both speak a foreign language. Frank enters Emilia’s empty apartment. She’s sits at the top of the stairs and asks him to write a review of her and tell every sexual thing they did as she needs more business. Frank can’t do it, but finally writes Emilia a review. He tries to tell her but she’s packed out and gone.
Frank returns to Paula. At the dining table Frank pours wine. Paula rejects it. Frank bristles. Joelle, the Narrator, states her case of repair over replacement. Two trains collide, Silent Movie style, in the desert. Frank emerges as a Hobo and walks the line back to his house where Paula discusses oral sex, South Beach, and Manhattan with her friend on the phone. She doesn’t acknowledge Hobo Frank who goes upstairs to the bedroom to unpack. He pushes open the door onto a theatre where Mad Hamlet broods on his existence. Paula, as Queen Elizabeth, reads a paperback in bed and Hobo Frank pops up through a trap-door, protests his marriage, gets Mad Hamlet’s advice for action, and begs the Queen for divorce. She denies.
Frank, no longer a Hobo, enters his actual bedroom and unpacks while arguing over the sprinklers with Paula. Frank as Sisyphus, pushes their garbage container up the steep drive while Paula fills it up with large rocks and brings him to a halt. Buzzards circle overhead. Frank sees Paula whisk up the stairs and vanish like a ghost, turning out the bedroom lights. It’s only 10pm and Frank seeks refuge in his office with his computer and some Kleenex. Joelle plays pool and comments on Frank’s incompleteness.
Frank and Paula wake up in the morning, each giving the other a little backrub. On an inkling, Paula gets out of bed and heads for the kitchen. Frank, thwarted, follows. Frank goes for his coffee and gets a Kitchen-trial instead. Paula prosecutes. The Romanian couple Frank had seen in the elevator at Reyna’s apartment is the Judge and Jury. He’s guilty of being a failure as a father, a husband, as a man! As Frank gives Paula a neckie, the lights go out and Frank hunts down the danger in the house. He finds Paula wrapping presents in a child’s room upstairs and then in the bathroom, the shower seems to be on but is empty. Frank turns to see Paula as Vampyr, professing to be on his side. Outdoors in the snow, Frank and Paula are Bride and Groom atop a snow cake. Frank declares their mail has arrived.
In the kitchen, Frank sorts through the mail and Paula gets him to fix a broken stapler. They talk about nothing at first then latch on to hockey. Both are King’s fans. They also fix the dead phones. Paula leaves, pointing out Frank’s failing hearing and saying she left him a snack in the fridge. Frank dreams of Reyna and suddenly her hands give Frank the same snack she did a long time ago. At dinner, Frank and Paula fight about wine and the trails around their house. Paula calls Frank a liar and Frank erupts pushing pistachios into Paula and says he won’t eat anything she’s cooking. He leaves the table, slamming his office door. Joelle suggests they might break through this logjam and they do, eating take-out instead and watching the Kings and turning a stray piece of Paula’s hair into foreplay.
Joelle expresses the illogical nature of love. Paula chases Frank down at night. He’s taking Ambien and she wants to know why. She accuses him of seeking the Underworld. Frank confesses his fear. Paula lets him talk. They end up outside at midnight with their feet in their pool as Frank tosses in the Ambien and abjures the Underworld. Joelle rants against logic and to prove it, sets the next scene. Frank tells Paula a dream of death. They renew their vows. It’s Valentine’s Day. Joelle again proves that love is beyond logic.
The CW’s re-enter and talk against Valentine’s Day and the subversive and fatal tactics women use to control men. They give money to the Street Troupe. Emilia crosses Frank’s path. He follows her. They walk through a park in silence. She leaves. Paula comes up to Frank and they join. Rae and Helena, both Irish, walk past the CW’s, both Irish. They exchange Gaelic verses of an old folksong. The chase is on. THE END.
From the eye of the narrator-Siren comes a vision of domestic apocalypse. The connection between men and women is broken and in need of repair not replacement. Frank, married, 60’s, emerges from the city streets that teem with pedestrians whose brief conversations reveal they are all in the chase for love. Frank joins the chase, too, as he pursues Reyna, a Mexican-American escort. In the course of their encounter, each tries to turn the other into their mate. They fail. At dawn on Valentine’s Day, Frank tells Paula, his wife of 30 years, his dream that night of a catastrophe that claimed both their lives. As they were dying he told her, in the dream: “I’m glad it was you that I married.” Paula makes him repeat that. He does. They open to each other. In the last scene, Reyna again crosses Frank’s path.
The script has been “in development” for about six years. It has had two full readings with different casts. Scenes have been rewritten, added, removed—one turned into a short screenplay—new characters have come in, old characters cut, and now, ten titles later, the kaleidoscope is clear. I have reached the statute of limitations on re-writes and either I make this thing or I go up in smoke. Most of what I write takes place in the domestic briar-patch and the driving action of this project is to present the male/female disconnect across a broad cultural spectrum. The story is about movement, advancement, and the invisibility of change. Who will carry their lives forward and who will stay stuck in the chase-to-nowhere. What seems like a possible love story hits the rocks of reality and what seems like an impossible marriage extracts its bond of renewal from a dream of death.
Love is not Love is a 90-minute Romantic Drama shot in 4K, B&W on Sony and Red cameras, Ronin and Movi. The project is under the SAG-AFTRA Ultra Low Budget Agreement with a cap of $250K. Interior scenes have been and will be shot on location at the Brewery in downtown LA and in Calabasas, CA. Exteriors in Syracuse, NY. Filming began July, 2017 and will complete January, 2018.
I have always been more fascinated by the irrational swirl of interior particles of the human condition than the linear logic of exterior plots. In assembling and arranging these particles, a story emerges in the same way that images evolve from the points of color used by the Impressionists. My approach is a form of psychological pointillism and my portraits and landscapes capture movements of the interior. My target is not the rational vein. I’d rather tap into the subjective and spontaneous eye—the private eye, of the viewer. I seek a style that shifts like smoke in a light breeze, striking a shape one minute, striking another the next, a dream style that heightens one reality then becomes another without transition, or the transition itself becomes the brief reality. The films I like best are those which put me in places without the breadcrumbs to tell me how I got there. My goal and style, then, is that of the private eye or, the private “I”. Our inner lives, our secrets, our privacies—all these comprise the impressionistic world of the Interior, the Drama of the Private “I”.
As a director, I’m learning how incredibly specific I must be in order to achieve the emotional drift of even the smallest moment of intent.
No matter if you are on stage, or at your desk, or behind the camera, the moment of life that you are seeking vanishes at the same moment it happens. All I can hope to create is one moment that may linger and recur. Stephen Keep Mills
For full Cast & Crew go to IMDb .