Forgiveness after death is possible according to Lisa Azuelos.
“With this movie, I managed to be very truthful about my own interior life with my relationship with my mom,” Azuelos explains to LA Confidential about her new film, I Love America. “And I think, even though I'm saying the truth, which was a difficult relationship, I also made it a tribute to her and it's really helped me go through the whole forgiveness process. I think it's a beautiful movie about what can be repaired even after death.”
The French director’s movie recently hit Amazon Prime Video. Following a woman also named Lisa (an excessively charming and relatable Sophie Marceau), the romantic comedy captures the transformative journey of a divorcee who uproots her life in Paris for Los Angeles now that her kids have grown up. While Lisa takes on another chance at life and love with her best friend Luka by her side (Djanis Bouzyani), she works through the pain of her relationship with her mom, who has recently passed.
Given that the protagonist has the same name as its writer-director, it's reasonable to assume Azuelos pulled from her own life to create I Love America. In fact, it's the standard for Azuelos, who describes her writing process as “very organic.”
“I just tell my truth and then I make it and then people think it's fiction,” she says. “I don't think when I write. It might seem weird to say that, but sometimes I just put my hands on the computer and the hands write.”
I Love America builds on Azuelo's collaborative partnership with Marceu. Previously, the two worked together on 2008’s LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and 2014’s Quantum Love. Azuelos describes the star actor as a “beautiful human being” who she’s been able to build a trusting relationship with.
“She's very courageous about saying things out loud,” Marceau says of Azuelos. “What I like about her is how she makes a personal story into something more universal. She takes herself as an example and then she shares with other people the same experience, but in a cinematic way.”
In I Love America, Lisa ditches the Parisian lifestyle for Southern California’s endless summer promises. She embraces the sunshine, meanwhile also tackling romance as a woman in her 50s in the world of online dating. Seeking the expertise of Luka, who is younger and has lived in L.A. for longer, Lisa elevates her online dating profile with curated images and details, including lying about her age (she says she’s in her 40s).
Despite the movie’s focus on dating, the best on-screen relationship is between Lisa and Luka. Whether messing around at an exercise class or just hanging out with Luka’s pet turtle, the duo would make you believe they’ve been real-life best friends for years. Such a result, as explained by Bouzyani, comes to no surprise.
“She's so, so, so generous and elegant,” he says of Marceau. “Every night she was telling me, ‘Oh you want to go over lines in our room?’ We were spending so much time together going to the beach and then putting the music on loud in the car and singing so bad, but thinking that we sing so well… I was so lucky to have to have someone like Sophie.”
With good intentions, Luca pushes her to have fun (AKA get laid). In the process, she matched with a younger guy, John, who turns out to be more than she expected.
“They’re just two people who are enjoying each other's company, letting their guards down and having a good time,” Colin Woodell, who plays John.
“I think what I really appreciate about this story is that [Lisa does] all the stereotypical things,” Woodell adds. “She lies about her age, she shows a picture that's the sexiest version of herself, and I think we all do that because we want to put ourselves out there the best way possible, but what you begin to realize is an angle that you take a picture or a thing that you say about yourself is not going to be the ultimate end-all-be-all that that brings you close to someone. It's being vulnerable. It's sharing your experiences. It's wanting to talk about loss and life and loved ones and previous loved ones. I think you need to continue to peel those layers back in order to really connect to someone.”
For Lisa, peeling back those layers requires processing her relationship with her mom. The movie opens with a flashback to her childhood that sets the foundation for their estranged relationship. Over the course of I Love America, we see more flashbacks and Lisa’s processing of her mom’s death. Paired in time to her relationship with John, it’s easy to understand and empathize with Lisa’s vulnerability struggles— especially because we see her evolve so gracefully.
“There is this expression of ‘feel-good movie,’ and my intention is to do a ‘heal-good movie,’” Azuelos says. “I feel that through fiction, you can get into people's hearts and brains as much as with therapy or things like that. And my intention with this movie is to say, ‘You're not able to love someone else if you don't forgive what's hurting under your skin about love, about what you've been experiencing with your mom because this is where you're coming from. And there is harshness in yourself if you had a hard relationship with your mom, that's not going to evaporate when you're with somebody in a loving experience.’ It's really about how forgiveness and love are a great couple to make a new story.”
Photography by: Courtesy Amazon Prime Video