Having minimal time to prepare for an equally joyful and painful journey into the past, as well as the endless possibilities of new experiences that are linked to previous relationships, is a gripping theme of the new romantic drama, She Is Love. Both the characters in, and creatives behind, the film learn to quickly embrace new situations that they weren’t expecting or used to, which makes them emotionally grow and appreciate all situations in their lives.
The movie’s two protagonists, Idris and Patricia, are estranged spouses who backwardly and unintentionally meet a decade after their harrowing divorce. After spending time together talking about their relationship, they ultimately contemplate rekindling what was an overall joyful marriage, despite the ramifications their reunion would have.
Meanwhile, Sam Riley, who plays Idris in She Is Love, also learned to appreciate a new skill during the feature’s shoot – improvising most of his character’s dialogue. Improvisation is a key technique that Jamie Adams, who wrote and directed the drama, utilizes while making most of his features, in an effort to add a level of authenticity to his stories and characters.
She Is Love follows Patricia (Haley Bennett) as she arrives at a country hotel in Cornwall, England, where she encounters her Idris, who manages the property with his current girlfriend Louise (Marisa Abela). Things become immediately awkward as the former couple reconnect over a long, messy night, during which they revisit the pain of the past while remaining open to new beginnings.
Adams generously took the time recently to talk about penning and helming the movie during an exclusive interviews over Zoom. She Is Love is now playing in select theaters and on all major digital platforms, including AppleTV, Amazon, Vudu and GooglePlay, courtesy of Brainstorm Media, after it was an official selection at the BFI London Film Festival.
Q: You crafted the characters and story idea for the new romantic drama, She Is Love. What was the inspiration in creating the movie?
JA: Basically, it was the pandemic, and I wanted to try to get out there and make something instead of sitting at home and worrying about dying and disease. I have accumulated a drawer of story outlines over the years, and She Is Love was one of them.
After going through the outlines, it kind of hit me that I should make She Is Love, due to its themes of isolation and the ghosts of our pasts and futures, as well as the idea of reminiscing over memories. I thought about what all of these things mean when you’re faced with a crisis. During the pandemic, I imagine that a lot of people were in that same position, thinking about their past and what could have been, as well as what might be.
So after I dwelled on that quite a bit, I reached out to Sam Riley, Haley Bennett and Marisa Abela. Thankfully, they all seemed to engage in the idea, and they were available to talk it through.
I work with improvisation, so we started working with the story’s idea. Then through conversation and continued dialogue with each of the lead cast members, we started to emerge with the development of the characters, in terms of who is Idris, who is Patricia and who is Louise. So it’s very much the actors’ perspective as it is mine.
Then I wrote a scriptment, which is a dialogue-free screenplay. That’s what we aimed to explore together on set.
Q: Speaking of the cast, the film stars Haley Bennett, Sam Riley and Marisa Abela, who you just mentioned. What was the casting process like for them for the drama?
JA: I’m very lucky in terms of the way I work with actors. They’re all actors who want to expand their craft. They want to explore different avenues of acting and performing that they wouldn’t normally get offered.
So when I offered the actors this film and explained how we would go about creating it using the improvisation, they were adventurous and willing to jump on. After our initial discussion, during which we shared a lot of experiences and thoughts, I heard back quite quickly that they were were interested in joining, which was thrilling. I’m grateful that brilliant actors like these wanted to work on the film.
Q: Besides writing the screenplay, you also directed She Is Love. How would you describe your overall helming style during the shoot?
JA: The way in which I direct using this type of improvisation process, which is something that I’ve created over the past 12 years, is really guiding the actors. We’re in a constant discussion about the characters, where they are and where they’re headed.
It’s my job to make sure that we remain true to what we were talking about in rehearsal, so we don’t go off in too many tangents. It’s good to explore, but I also need to know when to bring it back, in terms of the time and resources that we have. So it’s my job to make sure that we get the best out of our key collaborators, which is true for all directors. But in terms of the vision, it’s all about emotion, and not necessarily about specific shots and sequences
Q: Also speaking of the rehearsal process, how did you approach working with the cast during the rehearsals? Did you encourage them to create most of the improv during the rehearsals?
JA: Rehearsal is what I’m all about, really. Closely working with actors is what I learned while at film school over 20-odd years ago. I’m not like directors like James Cameron or Steven Spielberg, who are really visual. I’m also not like Hitchcock, who saw actors as props; I’m the opposite of that spectrum.
I think actors are the most incredible people, to be able to do what they do. I admire that they can take on characters and live their various emotions and experiences in a script. Actors are the most incredible storytellers, and I don’t think they’re encouraged enough to be more free to explore their craft and artistry.
The rehearsals create an environment for them to work through their characters’ experiences. During those rehearsals, I bring the actors together through Zoom meetings, both individually and together. During this time, I was able to spend time with Sam and Haley before the actual shoot.
So rehearsals, in terms of how we do it, is invaluable, especially when we shoot in six days, which is what we did for this film. The minimum that you would normally have for an indie film shoot now is about 20-22. So to have six brings an exciting energy, but it’s also terrifying.
Q: She Is Love is mainly set in a country hotel in Cornwall. What was the experience of shooting the movie on location?
JA: The location was always going to be very important because it’s like another character in the film. It brought so many opportunities to shoot in different areas. There are five or six paths that lead off the house to nowhere; they lead to a pond, a tennis court or a green house.
So you don’t know how to get off the actual grounds, as it’s quite difficult. That mirrors what’s going on both emotionally and literally with the main characters; they don’t know how to get out or move on from the past, or where to go to move things forward.
So the location really fed into the emotion of the narrative for Idris and Patricia, specifically. In fact, it’s only Louise who finds her way out during the film, really. She has much more agency within herself; she’s much more self-sufficient, and hasn’t been affected by a past traumatic love.
So the house is a bit of a prison, both figuratively and literally. The house is quite big, but the rooms are quite small. The characters are also trapped in their own emotion and vulnerability there. So it felt quite right that the story would take place in one building as much as possible.
Q: Did the location also make Patricia and Idris reconsider if they should have divorced?
JA: Yes, absolutely. It started to feel as though there were specific rooms that made them reconsider their relationship. The room in which they really started to talk to each other again is the most creative room in the house. It has all of Idris’ DJ equipment and memorabilia, as he’s a musician. So it felt like a time capsule to open up the memories of the past and start having a serious discussion.
I also knew that the location needed to provide opportunity and feel quite imposing, in a way. Isolation is absolutely the theme of the movie in a lot of ways. You can feel incredibly isolated among the acres of land that the house is located on, and there’s no phone reception. So overall, I think the location is important for any scene.
Q: She Is Love is [now playing] in select theaters and on Digital platforms in America, courtesy of Brainstorm Media. How did you secure the distribution for the movie, and why do you think the dual distribution is beneficial for this type of movie?
JA: I’m incredibly lucky to have had brilliant producers on this film at [the project’s entertainment company,] Signature Entertainment. They believed in us and what we were doing from the beginning. It’s a bit of an adventure for any producer to work on an improvised film, but they really believed in us and backed us all the way.
For them to secure a theatrical release in the UK and the U.S., via Brianstorm in the U.S., is amazing, and I’m grateful. Securing a theatrical release doesn’t happen very often for indie films, so it’s been a dream.
I’m also happy for the VOD release; it means that people all around the world will be able to watch She Is Love, if they do so wish.
Here’s the trailer of the film.