In the bilingual romantic comedy “Everybody Love Somebody,” director and screenwriter Catalina Aguilar Mastretta (“The Hours With You”) tells the story of Clara (Karla Souza), a successful Mexican-American doctor who find herself at a relationship impasse when she takes a date to her parents’ wedding in Mexico only to discover her ex-boyfriend has also been invited to the ceremony.
During an interview last week, Mastretta talked about the complexities of relationships, why romantic comedies have always been a genre she’s enjoyed, and what audiences can do to help get more Latina filmmakers like her behind the camera making more movies.
What inspired you to write a film like “Everybody Loves Somebody?”
I’ve always loved romantic comedies in general. They’re what I grew up watching. I wanted to write something that felt like a traditional romantic comedy, but I wanted to write something with characters and answer questions that I had about relationships. How do they happen? How do you meet a stranger and they become your family, and then you meet another stranger and they don’t? I think that is an interesting mystery.
Does the film parallel your own life in any way?
The only part that is kind of like my life is that my parents were together for almost 40 years before they got married. They only got married five years ago. I always thought that was funny. They didn’t have a huge, white wedding like we see in the film.
There’s a line in the film that the father says about how marriage is going to ruin their perfect relationship. I’m guessing your parents didn’t run into that problem.
(Laughs) No, they didn’t, but it was always a running gag in my family that they didn’t get married when I was younger because they didn’t want to ruin their love.
So, what are some of the romantic comedies you grew up watching?
My favorite has always been “When Harry Met Sally…” I think it was the first one I actually saw. Of course, I go back to old [films by] Woody Allen like “Annie Hall.” I think an exploration of relationships through a very specific point of view is always, to me, the most exciting. That’s what I was trying to make [with “Everybody Loves Somebody”].
What about more recent American romantic comedies? I could argue that a lot of them are pretty terrible.
(Laughs) I think there are a lot of reasons a lot of them don’t work. I think most of it is that the marketing departments have a hard time selling them. I can understand that. What you’re selling is complex relationships and emotions and complex things that are difficult to put on a [movie] poster. [The films] develop into these “hook” ideas—like, “Oh, they’re from the opposite sides of the aisle and they fall in love.” Everything is so very contrived. I think because we all experience love in our everyday lives, it’s very easy for everyone in the audience to see it and call bullshit.
What is your relationship status?
(Laughs) I’ve been married for three years, but I’ve been with my husband for almost seven.
Are you a hopeless romantic and did that affect the film in any way?
I always have been, maybe because I grew up watching a very, very solid and complex relationship with my parents that I always knew it was possible. Now that I’m married, I think that I have that. Mostly, I think [the film] is about larger feelings than that. I think it explores different definitions of what love is. The title, “Everybody Love Somebody,” comes from the idea that it’s not just about romantic relationships, it’s about relationships between a mother and a daughter and two sisters. It’s about how we relate to people. [The film] became more personal to me when we made it a bicultural and bilingual story. I think the barriers on who we fall in love with and why become more complex. Love is more complex and more difficult and more grey than [Clara] thought it was.
Earlier, you talked about how two strangers could meet and end up falling in love, while two other can meet and nothing happens. Having a soulmate is a romantic idea. Is it something you believe in?
I believe in soulmates, but I don’t believe we have just one. I think finding someone in the world that sees you and recognizes something in you is always a magical experience. It’s hard to communicate with people and show your true self to them. If you find someone in the world that shows you something about yourself that you never knew, then that is magical. It’s about a spiritual, human connection.
How do we get more Latina filmmakers like you behind the camera? It’s a complex subject I’m sure we don’t have time to get into too deep, but I always think of a Latina filmmaker like Patricia Cardoso (“Real Women Have Curves”) and wonder why a studio didn’t just hand over to her $1 million to make something else right after “Real Women Have Curves” in 2002.
I love that movie.
Right! And she hasn’t made a feature film since. We see this all the time. How do we remedy it?
I think it’s a complex problem, but I think the main thing you can do is watch those movies and demand those stories. I think the only way you’re going to get diversity in story if we get diversity behind the camera. In terms of women in film, I think there’s been a lot of controversy and talk about how—like you said—a newcomer who has a very good first film may never be able to get funding for a second one, while a male [filmmaker] who has very similar reviews [on his first film] can end up direct huge movies. Opportunities for women—and especially women of color—are harder to come by and I think we need to fight for them. At the same time, I don’t want to make movies that only Latinas see. I have seen movies that have been made by all kinds of people my entire life. I mean, “When Harry Met Sally…” was made by a Jewish man. That’s important. But it needs to work both ways. That’s the only way we’re going to get rid of this idea of “the other.” We have to have people telling all kinds of stories for all kinds of people. It starts with supporting stories that teach us about empathy, whatever those stories might be.