By Don Simpson | August 14, 2013
Director: Kat Coiro
Writer: Kat Coiro
Starring: Kate Bosworth, Jamie Blackley, Iddo Goldberg, Claire Bloom
As writer-director Kat Coiro establishes rather quickly, Jane (Kate Bosworth) and Leonard’s (Iddo Goldberg) relationship has grown boringly stale. Not only are they no longer newlyweds, but a traumatic event has forged an impenetrable wedge between the two of them. Their only remaining hope is that by Jane tagging along on Leonard’s working trip to Naples, exposure to some Italian romanticism might ignite a new spark in their relationship. Instead, they continue to have dull, [e]motionless sex, like two zombies dry-humping each other.
Jane is still bored stiff and devastatingly haunted by writer’s block, so she decides to explore Naples on her own. Listening to audio recordings of her grandmother’s (voice: Claire Bloom) recollections of the two World Wars, Jane tries to find inspiration to work on her new book. Her headphones seem to separate her from the rest of Italy; she wanders aimlessly around the city, detached, not seeming to absorb anything.
Upon arriving at the island of Ischia, Jane meets Caleb (Jamie Blackley), a cocksure, 19-year-old American, who relentlessly tries to get Jane’s attention and break through her frigid bitchiness. Caleb sees right through Jane’s depressed thirtysomething exterior, recognizing the intense sensual being hidden deep inside her that desperately needs a sexual reawakening with a ripe young 19-year-old. Jane is not only enamored by Caleb’s toned, teenage body, but also by his propensity for spontaneity. Whereas Leonard is a stereotypically cold Englishman, Caleb is more Italian in nature; Leonard is all work and no play, while Caleb is all play and no work. Caleb is certainly not a long-term solution for Jane’s problems, but he can provide her with the fun that she needs to snap out of her funk.
The confoundingly titled And While We Were Here — which seems to suggest a disassociation of time and place — plays in spirit as an homage to Italian neorealism. At its roots, Coiro’s film is pure existentialism. Jane is a woman who must choose between the boring predictability of marriage and the unpredictable freedom of the vibrant world around her. Without spoiling the trauma of Jane’s past, it is an event that prompts Jane to question her role as a woman and wife. In a strange sort of way, that event is what eventually sends Jane on this quest for freedom.
Kate Bosworth’s performance as Jane is reminiscent of Brigitte Bardot in Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt, flawlessly capturing her character’s exterior emotions, but never really grasping the all important inner turmoil. Bosworth is certainly no Monica Vitti and Coiro does not possess the rich psychological insight of a director like Michelangelo Antonioni; regardless, it is nice to see a film like And While We Were Here hearkening back to one of the glory days of cinema history.