‘Somebody I Used to Know’ challenges every idea of love as we know it

By Sophia Pargas, Editor-in-Chief

In the romantic comedy genre, the concept of authentic on-screen love seems to be lost for good. Rom-coms have become oversaturated with cliché plots and all-too-predictable endings, and originality in the genre is few and far between. Before having watched “Somebody I Used to Know,” I had almost lost faith in the genre as a whole—but this film in particular had other plans for me, smashing stereotypes of love in every form. 

The new film, co-written by real life couple Dave Franco and Alison Brie, was released on Prime Video on Feb. 10. Franco directs the film, and Brie stars in it. In the process of creating it, the couple took inspiration from old school rom-coms, hoping to recreate the “charming and comforting” spirit they possess. 

“We were definitely influenced by some movies like ‘Pretty Woman,’ ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’” Franco said in a roundtable interview with the Beacon. “When you look back at those movies, they’re about real people going through real issues, and they’re grounded. It’s like, that’s enough. So we tried to tap into that kind of essence, but do it in modern times with characters that exist in the world today.”

The movie follows Ally, a recently unemployed TV producer who leaves LA and returns to her hometown after 10 years amidst an impending identity crisis. While home, she begins to reminisce on the life—and the love—she left behind in pursuit of her now failed dreams. 

On a drunken night at the local bar, she reunites with her ex-fiancé Sean, played by Jay Ellis. The two spend the night rehashing old memories and visiting old spots in their hometown as the typical movie montage erupts in blood pumping background music. The two share a passionate kiss as the sun perfectly rises in orange and pink hues, but Ally’s joy comes crashing down when she learns Sean is getting married that same weekend to Cassidy, played by Kiersey Clemons. 

At this point in the film, I thought I had it all figured out: Ally would seek to destroy Sean’s engagement and rekindle their own, give up on her Hollywood dreams, and settle into a small town life. The two would ride into the sunset together as if the ten years spent apart meant absolutely nothing at all. Typical. 

As the film progresses, however, each and every one of my predictions slowly faded into falsity. While Ally does try to sabotage parts of Sean and Cassidy’s wedding weekend, she does not possess the same heartless and “pick-me” persona we often see in women in such rom-coms. 

On the contrary, Ally and Cassidy develop a friendship that is completely unexpected of two women pining after the same man. This aspect of the film was extremely refreshing, as it shows women empowering women even in an instance where the audience is trained to expect anything but. They confide in one another, offer wisdom, and at one point even streak across a country club together. 

Though Cassidy is not oblivious to the fact that Ally is after Sean, she, too, confides in Ally about the problems in her relationship. She shares how heartbroken she is over having to give up her dream of touring with her band, but how she fears losing Sean if she pursues her career. This is another stigma that is broken in the film—while Cassidy, a woman, dreams of a career-driven life, Sean, a man, wishes for a domestic one. He wants to settle down, get married, have kids, but she wants to continue touring the country and enjoy her youth. 

“There’s a lot of ideas about work-life balance in the film,” Franco said. “We’re trying to say that you can have both. You don’t need one or the other. And hopefully you find a partner who understands you and will make certain sacrifices so you can be your truest self and explore all the avenues you want to.” 

Towards the end of the film, Sean and Cassidy’s different views cause a major blowout the night before their wedding. Frustrated by Sean’s lack of understanding for her dreams, Cassidy calls off the wedding, and Sean runs to Ally for support. While the typical rom-com may end with a dramatic confession of love that ends in Ally walking down the aisle as Cassidy and her band serenade her in triumph, this one does not.

Instead, the two acknowledge their old habits as nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction, and Ally leaves Sean to comfort Cassidy. As the two women lay in the honeymoon suite bed, Ally and Cassidy realize they are not so different after all: they were both young and in love with the same man, choosing between love and a career. Though Ally chose the latter, she tells Cassidy she can have both. The women share an intimate, yet platonic, kiss before Cassidy goes to speak with Sean and call the wedding back on. 

“When Ally meets Cassidy, she identifies with her and really likes her,” Brie said. “Cassidy reminds Ally so much of herself when she was younger and more of a free spirit. I think part of that journey is [Ally] wanting to protect Cassidy the way she wishes she protected herself.” 

Despite the complex storylines that evolved from the love triangle of Cassidy and Sean, “Somebody I Used to Know” is truly a story of a woman looking back on her own life and the ways she has changed throughout it. While Ally thought she needed Sean to fill the void of her career, she comes to realize that she chose to follow her own dreams all those years ago for a reason. Rather than give up on her goals and retreat into an older version of herself, she packs her things and moves back to her new home of LA in search of who she has always wanted to be. 

The movie ends with a flash-forward to Ally who keeps in touch with Cassidy and Sean as they expect their first child while traveling the country on tour, and pursues a new love interest in LA. Ally is filming a raw, vulnerable, and (literally) intimate documentary about a nudist community, which is a heavy theme throughout the film. 

“We used [nudity] as a metaphor in a way where the movie starts with Alison’s character, like very buttoned up and a little fierce,” Franco said. “By the end of the movie, it’s all out for the world to see. And it kind of represents like her getting back to her purest self.” 

Through humor, drama, and romance, the film gives audiences a new perspective on romantic, platonic, and self-love while crushing outdated stereotypes in the gentlest and most subtle ways. “Somebody I Used to Know” is a refreshing, heartfelt, and genuine take on love in almost every form—a sentiment that is just as wanted as it is needed.