Like its heroine, Cross My Heart takes the first brave steps over a chasm of stigma and misunderstanding.
The phenomenon of Object Sexuality has been on the public consciousness for some time, mostly as a target of curiosity and shame. With this breezily funny, big-city romance, director Bibo Bergeron [working from a script by Mark Eisman] gives us the people behind the punchline. Namely, Susan Stone, played with neurotic charm by Simona Fusco, first known for Beerfest, now fresh off an Academy win for sci-fi thriller The Moon Is Coming Straight At Us and shifting into quirky pixie mode.
We begin at the end. Susan’s getting ‘the talk’ from a current beau [a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Robert Wuhl]: it’s not working. She’s heard this before, it seems. “I’ve dated every man on the planet at least once,” confides Susan to confidante Bex [a screechy Diane Wiest], “…and given a second pity-date to at least the population of Australia. Is that some sort of record?” Susan has hit bottom. It’s only as she walks wistfully home along her very favorite route that she realizes: love may not be off in the distance; it’s right underneath her.
Bergeron takes his time and gives us a true rom-com first: the street-smart city girl who falls head over heels in love with a bridge.
Fusco earns her keep with a performance showing Susan to be cautious, pragmatic, and finally joyful in finding the love she’s chased for years. For its part, the bridge [Manhattan’s beloved 59th Street Bridge in the screenplay, bumped down to a pedestrian footbridge in Barkham, CT after budget and zoning considerations] carries its weight thanks to several well-placed suspension cables. Due credit to DP Alison Twiss for bringing an inanimate object [as classically defined; I can hear the firestorm in the comments section already] to life with unexpected angles and an ever-moving camera. The two lovemaking scenes in the film manage to beautifully intertwine the vertigo of new love, and actual vertigo.
While Cross My Heart could easily have coasted on the freshness of its premise, Bergeron digs deeper. Aspects of race relations and homophobia emerge as the bridge is refused entry to restaurants, ignored by cabs, scorned by churches and public restrooms. Don’t be surprised to find yourself questioning your own compliance, as I did. Who among us can say we treat architecture with the same dignity and compassion we offer to any stranger on the street?
To quote Susan: “For most, having someone walk all over you is unacceptable. For you, it’s every day.” To these difficult questions, the bridge remains silent [except as voiced by Anthony Head in a dream sequence].
Cross My Heart has been a long time coming, with a subject matter only hinted at in festival darling short film My Husband Is a Door and the recent three-episode arc of British sitcom 43 Crumble Lane where main character Maggie surrenders to a weekend fling with an end table. Bergeron, until now wasting his talent for complicated romance with paint-by-numbers animated fare like Shark Tale and A Goofy Movie, gamely senses the public need for a larger conversation and brings it to glorious life without skimping on the drama. Good luck finding a dry eye in the theater as Susan is informed her fiancée is scheduled for demolition, hours before their wedding.
One quick note about the soundtrack, composed entirely of a single, obvious Simon & Garfunkel tune played over and over again. This was a bit of a sledgehammer for me. But considering how prominently sledgehammers feature in the climax of the film, let’s give sound designer Abigail Dowling a few points for cleverness.
If you or anyone you know has paused for a final backwards glance towards a marble staircase or highway overpass, make room on your holiday viewing list for Cross My Heart. [Stick around for the post-credits stinger, involving Susan’s daughter and a very familiar cornerstone in a museum exhibit.] Like all good cinema, it brings us to a foreign land, if only to help us realize: its lessons aren’t waiting there for us upon arrival. They were learned amidst the crossing.
Tim Sniffen writes and performs in Chicago with The Second City, as well as the Improvised Shakespeare Company and Baby Wants Candy, an improvised musical. He’s written for McSweeney’s Internet Tendancy, the online trivia game You Don't Know Jack, and the Boom Chicago theater in Amsterdam. You can find him on Twitter as MisterSniffen. For real, the first Paranormal Activity kept him awake for three nights.