Multiplication Fable


The protagonist of Andrucha Waddington’s unassuming dramedy Me You Them is the mother of all earth mothers. Serene yet horny, hardworking and hard-playing, Darlene (Regina Casé) toils from dawn to dusk as a field hand for some faceless agribusiness in the rocky soil of the Brazilian northeast. When she gets home, she must wait hand and foot on her defiantly lazy husband, Osias (Lima Duarte), a libido-challenged curmudgeon who sits in a hammock all day, napping or bitching. And yet, the human spirit—as it tends to do in subtitled hard-luck rural narratives that get U.S. distribution—triumphs: Darlene finds time (and, apparently, unseen baby-sitters) in order to dance the night away at a nearby club, pick up handsome strangers, enjoy torrid crop-dusted sex on her lunch break. She harvests her body for guiltless pleasure and copious breeding, just as she harvests the sullen ground beneath her feet. And even as the many-hued fruits of Darlene’s labor accumulate—her litter evokes Jim Carrey’s plastic pool full of black sons in Me, Myself & Irene—Osias, for the most part, averts his gaze. What was once a loveless, borderline-sadomaso marriage begins to crystallize as a workable arrangement: If Darlene does everything for Osias, then Osias will let Darlene do anything she wants. The terms of this tacit deal soon provide two of Darlene’s lovers with their own hammocks under Osias’s tiny roof.

No great shakes at domestic comedy (Darlene is too saintly a foil, while the men are drawn with broad, amorphous swaths of primary colors), Me You Them can’t find a rhythm or a consistent tone: Darlene makes an abrupt, life-altering decision about the fate of her eldest son that plays like a hastily reinserted outtake, and Waddington telegraphs nefarious insinuations about one of the boyfriends only to quickly discard them. The director does ably frame the endless sepia landscape, which seems to dwarf everything from Osias’s shack to the hardy shrubs dotting the fields to even the full-bodied Darlene—who, as portrayed by the radiant, witty Casé (a theater and TV star in Brazil), comes off as nothing less than the perfect mum, lover, and friend. The character’s perfections, in fact, stand in sharp and regrettable relief to the flat, arid movie that surrounds her.