Personal interview strikes a nerve in ‘I’ll Show You Mine’

Priya (Poorna Jagannathan) and Nic (Casey Thomas Brown) in "I'll Show You Mine."
Priya (Poorna Jagannathan) and Nic (Casey Thomas Brown) in “I’ll Show You Mine.”
Gravitas Ventures

“I’ll Show You Mine” is a tease of a title for a talky and mildly provocative two-hander about Priya (Poorna Jagannathan) and Nic (Casey Thomas Brown), who spend a weekend together discussing his sexuality for a proposed book project.

Priya is Nic’s aunt by marriage. A writer who has published several books about her own personal traumas, Priya thinks Nic, a former model, will be a fascinating subject for her “bio-cum-cultural intervention” — in part because he is pansexual and an exhibitionist. But what should be a productive meeting becomes something more destructive as the two characters talk (and talk and talk) uncovering long held secrets and uncomfortable truths.

When Nic arrives, in drop-seat pajamas no less, he stalls on starting the interview. This is as frustrating for Priya as it is for the audience. Their conversations, when they do begin, feel like extended therapy sessions, and while “I’ll Show You Mine” is stagey — it unfolds entirely in Priya’s house — it feels less like a play and more like a podcast. Were it not for a few scenes that depend on visual references, the film could have worked in the audio format.

“I’ll Show You Mine” works mainly because of how the characters interact in their give-and-take discussions. When Priya asks Nic if he is an avid masturbator, he answers with a question about her penchant for self-abuse.

Abuse is a key and loaded word in the film. Priya has suffered plenty of trauma at the hands of her father, and she is still licking her wounds. She wants Nic to dig deep into his past like she did and open up about his traumas to show how they can “form or demolish a person.” She asks him to discuss an early sexual experience, and he recounts a painful episode from his childhood involving two of his parents’ friends taking a bath with him as a youth. An animated sequence depicts this memory as well as some other scenes, such as the red carpet “stunt,” where Nic disrobed and stood naked in front of the paparazzi during his modeling days.

This leads to a conversation about Nic being exploited for his body and his sexuality — but he accuses Priya of doing this very thing with her line of questioning. She tossed out words like “victim” and “survivor,” which he resists, and throws around the phrase “emotional masochism” too much. He really bristles when she mentions consent, as when she asks him if he has done anything without consent, which Nic reads as a question about rape.

Priya is more serious than respectful; her questions try to put Nic into the boxes she has created for him, ignoring what he tells her. And perhaps he does not tell her the whole truth, which is interesting. Priya claims she wants Nic to provide her (and her readers) with a deeper understanding of gender and sexuality. However, she asks him tone deaf questions such as, “What is sex like with a trans or non-binary person?” when Nic talks about loving the spirit of a person and not their gender. Priya wants Nic to talk about the mechanics of his desires, which is like going to the hardware store to buy milk. As such, her “research” comes across more like just plain nosiness.

The film’s strength is its dogged emphasis on language and storytelling. One key scene involves a flirtatious exchange and the mention of a spanking, a topic that resurfaces later in a much more serious light. But there is also talk of boundaries (or a lack thereof), as well as comments about judgment and shame which are raised as Priya discloses some uncomfortable truths from her past in the tit-for-tat exchange they have. That the tables turn on the interviewer is not surprising, but “I’ll Show You Mine” only gets knotty when the characters behave inappropriately.

Both Priya and Nic clearly want the same thing — fame — and they each hope the other will help them achieve it. They also both have daddy issues. Priya’s was abusive, and Nic’s was a homophobe. However, despite these commonalities, they are not well matched. This disparity helps create the film’s tension which slowly escalates as the characters reflect on a shared encounter from years ago. But neither character is especially likable, which mutes the impact of the drama.

Casey Thomas Brown makes Nic irritating from the start — Priya calls him “incorrigible” — but he never becomes endearing. Brown is not particularly convincing, either, especially when he gives a monologue that is supposed to be revealing. Poorna Jagannathan has the better role, and she plays Priya with an earnestness that captures a serious demeanor that masks her own insecurities. It is a telling moment when she unbuttons the top of her blouse to show she can be more relaxed and let her guard down. Her finely calibrated performance keeps the film interesting; he comes off as superficial and unimpressive — not unlike one of his porn cartoons, which are seen periodically throughout the film. Nic even mispronounces “Proust” as if anyone needs more evidence that he is a boor.

The modest “I’ll Show You Mine” never gets sensationalistic with all its talk, which is to its credit, but it also fails to excite.

“I’ll Show You Mine” | Directed by Megan Griffiths | Available at Cinema Village and on VOD | Distributed by Gravitas Ventures