Of all the films screening for the Seattle True Independent Film Festival through Saturday, I Love You, Apple, I Love You, Orange is likely the only one featuring a supporting performance by a talking glazed ham.
The movie, playing at Wing-It Productions in the University District Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., isn’t just a showcase for talking groceries, though. It’s a quiet indie dramedy in which a troubled young woman, Maggie (Lori Anne Smithey), finds her life of solitude and routine shaken up by the onset of romance. And her subconscious (manifested by that loquacious cut of meat, as well as by several similarly-chatty fruits and vegetables) has difficulty dealing with this emotional sea change.
Writer/director Horam Kim shot much of his debut feature film in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, but “I wanted the exteriors to have an ambiguous quality that could be any place, any park, or any coffee shop,” he says. “The world of the film is really inside Maggie’s head.”
The talking food that populates the world in Maggie’s head was rendered with real produce and meat via stop-motion animation. The ham serving as ILYAILYO’s ostensible heavy began decomposing as the shoot progressed, a development that Kim turned into an asset. “As the shoot went on for a few months, and the ham began to develop some mold, we thought it fit perfectly with the character, and [we] made the decision to stick with the one ham,” Kim says. The remainder of the film’s produce performers, however, came to a more productive end: “I also hate to waste food, which is why I wound up eating all the other food characters in the film.”
ILYAILYO was essentially a two-person project for Kim (who also plays Maggie’s romantic interest, Martin) and Smithey, who also served as assistant director. “Lori and I made up the entire production crew,” he says. “Any time it was just me on screen, she was the one behind the camera filming and feeding me notes on my performance.”
Clocking in at a leisurely 93 minutes, I Love You, Apple, I Love You, Orange runs a little long, and the unstable Maggie seems like a bit of a blank slate at first. But Smithey’s performance grows in depth as the film progresses: She conveys the character’s messy mental state with a courageous disregard for likeability. Kim makes an awkwardly-charming foil as an actor himself, and he edits and composes his shots with a painterly craftsmanship that sometimes echoes Sofia Coppola or Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s a comparison that Kim acknowledges. “While making [ILYAILYO], I watched Lost In Translation and Punch-Drunk Love for inspiration,” he says. “Those films in particular are so beautiful, and [they] convey a deep and melancholic atmosphere.”
Tickets for I Love You, Apple, I Love You, Orange are available at STIFF’s website.