Crying and singing along to Selena’s “Dreaming of You” at the local bodega with your friends is the height of love in Someone Great, a new film that debuted on Netflix over the weekend. Possessing the ability to capture the feeling of calmness—after you’ve worried, after you’ve cried, after you’ve heard the reassurances from those closest to you—when you find that temporal, quiet courage to forge ahead with your dreams, it’s that kind of specificity and intimacy that makes Someone Great something special. Writer and director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson crafted a smart movie centered on one woman’s break-up and the bond of friendship between a trio of women who are all coming into their own.
Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez leads the cast as Jenny, an about-to-be-30 music journalist in New York City, who lands her dream job at Rolling Stone, only it requires moving to San Francisco. Jenny’s move at first seems like the catalyst for the break-up of her nine-year relationship with Nate (Lakeith Stanfield), but the film uses flashbacks, triggered by songs and locations Jenny encounters on the day following their separation, to give us dreamy glimpses into their relationship. Jenny’s mission to play hooky with her best friends, Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow), and get tickets to a secret music festival is all an effort for her to move on and avoid her feelings. Yet, as Jenny, Erin, and Blair go through the day, drinking, smoking, and enjoying a break from real life, it starts to dawn on them what’s working and not working in their own relationships. Erin is afraid of commitment and keeps avoiding making things official with her longtime hookup, Leah (Rebecca Naomi Jones). Blair, on the other hand, has been in her relationship for so long, she feels like she can’t break up with her boyfriend who irritates her with his eager over-affection.
For Jenny, memories of her and Nate, both good and bad, drift in and out of her conscious as she deals with their breakup. With each memory, we see how Jenny and Nate fell in love and then grew apart. The flashbacks are from Jenny’s perspective, but they place fault on both parties and ultimately show the audience what a great relationship it was. It simply wasn’t something meant to last forever. Everlasting love is typically considered the pinnacle of romance, but the idea of a one true love is not realistic for everyone. It reminds me of a scene toward the end of recent season of One Day At A Time, when the show’s protagonist, Penelope (Justina Machado), realizes at her ex-husband’s wedding, that maybe she wasn’t meant to have one true love, but many great loves. That feels real because we all grow and change at different rates and in different ways, and Someone Great is a testament to growth and change and coming to terms with who you are now and what you want to be.
All three friends find themselves avoiding change in their lives, afraid to break up with a long-term boyfriend or commit to a relationship. Part of what makes the movie enjoyable is seeing how lovingly these women interact with each other—supporting each other, calling each other out, or letting them go on with their mess because sometimes that’s easier or that’s what they need at the moment.
All those feelings and experiences are highlighted by wonderful performances from Rodriguez, Wise, and Snow. Not only do they have great chemistry, but they know how to navigate the vulnerabilities of their characters while relishing in the comedic aspects of their situations. Robinson’s script blends both emotion and comedy seamlessly, and this is seen in several scenes, but particularly the aforementioned “Dreaming of You” moment. There’s a bittersweet joy to the scene, the longing that the song evokes and the friends joining in with Jenny in solidarity (but also because it’s hard to resist singing along too) until the bodega man starts yelling them and kicks them out. And speaking of irresistible, Lakeith Stanfield is sublime as Nate; Stanfield is soft-spoken but his presence booms on screen. The subtlety of his performances and astounding effect they typically have makes him such a unique talent. He ensures that the audience feels the magnitude of Jenny’s loss.
Someone Great may be a brief and formulaic glimpse into the lives of young, urban millennial women. However, it doesn’t try to speak for the generation it represents, like many other millennial centered films may try to do. Rather, its aim is smaller. It means to live in that moment before everything changes and tell a story of how three women, who find themselves on the cusp of entering a new phase in life, learn to embrace the uncertainty of what’s next.
Someone Great is now streaming on Netflix.