“Show Me What You Got” is director/cowriter Svetlana Cvetko’s charming romance about a loving relationship that develops between Christine (Cristina Rambaldi), Nassim (Neyssan Falahi), and Marcello (Mattia Minasi).
The three strangers first meet in Los Angeles. Marcello is there on behalf of his famous father Riccardo (Pietro Genuardi). He bonds with Nassim, and they in turn connect with Christine and become inseparable. The trio quickly move in together and hop around town, visit art galleries and attend demonstrations. They also take a trip out to Joshua Tree where they end up in bed together. The affection between them is genuine even if they are, as Nassim’s mother (Anne Brochet) says, “a French cliché.” Eventually, they head off to Italy where Marcello has an obligation.
“Show Me What You Got” is an homage to films such as “Jules and Jim” (and “Willie and Phil,” that film’s loose reimagining). Cvetko shoots this gorgeous film — and the gorgeous actors — in arty black and white as the characters grapple with sex and love, as well as family and loss.
Actress Cristina Rambaldi, who had previously worked with Cvetko on a short film, was a “creative champion” for the feature. In a recent zoom interview, she explained that she was approached — along with Falahi and Minasi — to develop the story. However, while the actors use their own experiences to inform the characters, “Show Me What You Got” was not an improvisational project.
“When talking to Svetlana about who we wanted Christine to be, we agreed that we wanted her to be someone who cared,” Rambaldi said. “This overlooked, feminine trait of caring is, in its own way, rebellious —because it has been so disregarded. We wanted someone who was strong, but didn’t have to sacrifice her nurturing, caring, loving nature that you see in these powerful female leads nowadays. We wanted her to care deeply about the world and other people.”
What comes across in the film is that Christine, Nassim, and Marcello’s intimacy is based their mutual love for each other — not the sex, which Rambaldi acknowledged, “is functional to their relationship, but not the focus.”
The characters do not try to define or discuss their relationship. The guys kiss each other without comment, and none of the characters talk much about polyamory. The actress applauded this approach.
“I think that’s how it should be,” Rambaldi explained. “I don’t believe in labels. Labeling something is not helping. We have to normalize diversity and honesty. I appreciate the choice that Svetlana made to not do that. It’s them; they are their own thing. When you fall in love with someone — for me, I don’t put a label on it. I feel the way we treat the relationship makes the movie stronger.”
This aspect also helped Rambaldi in her performance. Consciously or not, she treated her male lovers as “one entity that had two physical bodies.” She added, “It worked because they do love each other equally — that’s why if one character were to leave the relationship, it would crumble.”
Falling in love is what inspires the actress, and she indicated she could fall for a person, a cause, a book, a film, or a song. Love is also what inspires Christine, who is grieving over the loss of her grandfather. The actress quoted Sam Shepard, saying, “The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning.”
She continued, “I don’t want to reduce it to acceptance, and making the best out of it, but Christine alchemizes the relationship with these two men — after her grandfather’s death — into a new beginning. When you do have that kind of love, no matter what happens, she understands these are lessons for grief or pain. She finds beauty in them. She finds solutions. Fate deals her the cards, but she rearranges them, and in a way, she does make her own fate with what she’s given.”
That said, “Show Me What You Got” features signs and symbols that direct the characters — Christine in particular. The actress was very pleased with their inclusion.
“There is a lot of Jungian references to the subconscious and the dream realm,” she said. “We played a lot with that. I am very much affected by symbols in my own personal life. I do navigate reality trying to listen to my subconscious and intuition.”
This may be why Rambaldi pours so much of herself into her projects.
“The reason I think we love movies so much is because they shed light on the dark areas of our lives,” she observed. “When we share our stories and vulnerabilities, that really helps others in ways we don’t even realize.”
SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT | Directed by Svetlana Cvetko | Level Forward’s Labz Live & Screen Forward Theatrical Network | Opening Feb. 12 in virtual cinemas