Oh god, I loved this so much. I’m a huge film nerd when given the opportunity, and this was so good for me, and it really made me want to watch like, art movies, which my partner really does not appreciate. Or other movies too, just really good ones.
It isn’t really a book about film though — it’s about friendship, and about women. The male characters don’t matter all that much — I like them fine, but all of the stories belong to women, different, messed up, fascinating women. The central relationship is between Meadow and Carrie, childhood best friends who grow up to be very different sorts of filmmakers. They aren’t always close, and they don’t always see eye to eye, but their relationship was so formative to the kind of people they would become that it’s always going to matter, it’s a bond that can never fully disintegrate. They’re making very different sorts of movies, but their work is still in conversation, different takes on how a female director is going to react to the patriarchal film cannon.
I loved reading the descriptions of the different movies they made, and the reactions their films received. Writing about film — using words to translate something with movement and vision — is hard enough. Inventing the films entirely and coming up with something understandable is a challenge that Spiotta meets exceptionally well.
Meadow is a documentarian, and the subjects of her films add another aspect to the novel. The story of one of these subjects, Jelly, is a thread running throughout the story. Jelly’s story plays with ideas about vision and hearing. Temporarily blinded, Jelly became involved in the world of phone phreaking. Later on she creates a whole life calling strangers on the phone, building relationships with men but never revealing her true identity. Jelly’s love of movies, and the importance of being a cinema goer to her life, unities her story with Meadow and Carrie’s. She isn’t making her own movies, but she’s fascinated by that world.
It’s a book about women creating things, telling stories, about themselves, about other people. It was inspiring. It made me want to create interesting art, and experience good art, and hold onto the women friends I’ve grown up with. I loved it. It was a hard book to put down, and it gave me a lot to think about. This is basically everything I am looking for in a novel.