Family & Friends · Film & Television

On the Bright Side: Sisterly Love — ‘Jane Wants a Boyfriend’

jane-wants-a-boyfriend-eliza-dushku-2Eliza Dushku and Louisa Krause play two sisters in Jane Wants a Boyfriend. (Courtesy of FilmBuff)

National Sibling Day fell on the 10th of this month. Last week we acknowledged brothers’ and sisters’ importance in our lives with a review of the book Cain’s Legacy  and an article exploring life’s longest relationship. To continue the celebration, I recommend a wonderful new independent film, Jane Wants a Boyfriend. Director William Sullivan’s feature deals with a universal subject—the relationship between siblings—and does not shy away from its complexities. (Recently opened in a limited number of cities, it is also available on iTunes and Amazon.) How much do we owe our brothers and sisters once they reach adulthood? The pressures and expectations differ from family to family, but no one is a stranger to the issue of how to negotiate the ties that bind us to them.

The situation is all the more complicated when one of the sibs has a serious disadvantage or disability. This is the wrenching topic of Sullivan’s moving and subtle film, written by Jarret Kerr.  Jane, played by the extraordinary Louisa Krause, is on the “Asperger’s/autism spectrum.” Her behavior ranges from robotic, repetitive, and hypersensitive to disarmingly charming and perceptive. As the film opens, she is 25 and still living with her parents. She works as a costume assistant for the small theater company that is producing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring her sister, Bianca (Eliza Dushku), as Titania. Bianca has many assets that Jane does not: social skills, fashion sense, and a committed boyfriend, Rob (Amir Arison), who has just moved in with her. Meanwhile, the girls’ parents have decided they want to leave the Queens apartment they share with Jane and move to rural New Jersey. Everyone knows that this would be a setback for Jane: she tends to isolate and stay in her room watching romantic old movies unless prodded.

The parents ask Bianca if she will solve their problem by letting Jane live with her in Brooklyn. Bianca has already extended herself in getting the irascible Jane a job in her theater group, where she is on thin ice with the comically demanding and narcissistic director. As she is just settling into her new life with Rob, she feels it would be an imposition and burden to have to supervise Jane, who is entering a new phase of her life fraught with pitfalls: she wants a boyfriend.

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A friend of Bianca’s sets Jane up with a colleague at work who is similar to her in that he too has “issues.” But Jane has her eye on someone else, a casual friend of her sister’s named Jack (Gabriel Ebert), a sous-chef at a hip restaurant. Meeting by chance, she forms a quick connection with him, despite the fact that Jack is “neuro-normative.” Jane’s “differences” are part of what attracts Jack to her. He finds her quirky, amusingly straightforward, and refreshing. Each sees something in the other that others miss.

The film straddles the difficult line between taking its characters seriously and keeping the action lighthearted enough to be entertaining and engaging. The theme is love between people of differing abilities, but the central “love story” is really about the two sisters. Bianca worries about Jane and feels acute stress when she senses that she is in danger. It is clear that the bond between these two very different people is deep, primal, and central to them both.

There are millions of people who live with siblings who are different, troubled, or handicapped in some way. The “normal one” is often charged with extra responsibility or even neglected because of the family’s need to care for the “difficult” child. Yet for many of these people, like Bianca, it is a duty that they undertake with compassion and loving generosity.  This film is an important and poignant contribution and celebration of these unsung heroes.

 

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  • Andrea April 20, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    What a sweet and sensitive film on a topic not usually discussed. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    Reply