Philipp Karner’s directorial debut, Like You Mean It, is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. Karner’s character, Mark, is a struggling actor who has been with his boyfriend Jonah (Denver Milord) for three years. Their relationship has lost its spark, and when Mark’s sister tells him that his estranged father has died, more cracks begin to appear. Desperate to try and save their dying relationship, Mark and Jonah visit a therapist to try and work out their issues, but Mark is hesitant to take her guidance, putting even more pressure on their relationship.
Like You Mean It is a slow burning film with not a whole lot happening, but at the same time, there is so much going on underneath the top layer. Mark is so caught up in his own issues, he can’t quite be the right person for Jonah, while Jonah is just waiting for Mark to meet him half way. Despite Mark’s character saying he isn’t in love with Jonah anymore, when the two are sharing intimate moments, you can tell they have a deep connection that stems from years of knowing each other. It’s the simpleness that really makes Like You Mean It what it is; a brilliant story of two men who love each other but can’t seem to make it work.
The film is a testament to Karner’s abilities as writer, actor, and director; the characters feel real and that spreads feelings of fondness through you, drawing you further in. Mark makes you genuinely angry when he rejects the ideas put forward by the therapist, and even more furious when you see him scoff at Jonah’s efforts. Like You Mean It is incredibly compelling, and it’s because of Karner’s careful exploration into the depths of his characters. Jonah, for example, seems infallible in comparison to Mark, he is kind, caring, and in Marks words, far too good for him. But it’s the infallibility that seems to be his flaw, because its almost impossible to stand next to Jonah and feel like a good person. Milord portrays him perfectly too, with his doe-eyed looks and an all-round aura of gentleness that seems to seep from his character.
In short, Like You Mean It is the beautiful story of Mark and Jonah trying to save their relationship. With one of them spiralling out of control, and the other trying desperately to cling onto the past, it’s almost destined to fail. As a debut film for Karner as a writer and director, Like You Mean It feels like an indication that anything he is at the helm of will be a success in the future.