Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“Love without warning”: Joanna Kulig in American style. How did she fare?

  • “Love Without Warning” is a romantic comedy directed by Rebecca Miller and starring a Polish actress Joanna Kulig she starred alongside Hollywood stars: Anne Hathaway (“The Devil Wears Prada”, Marisa Tomei (“Spider-Man: Far From Home”) i Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”).
  • The film takes place in New York and its characters are: a composer in a creative and existential crisis, his psychotherapist wife, a ship’s captain with stalkerish tendencies, the artist’s stepson, an immigrant from Poland and her daughter.
  • The film can be seen on Polish cinema screens from March 15.

It falls like a bolt from the blue, turning the lives of its “victims” upside down without warning. He takes no prisoners. He doesn’t accept logical arguments – or he accepts them to ignore them anyway. Reason has no chance in a discussion with her. Pills won’t help. Therapy won’t do much either. Love has its own rules, it is unbearable and stubborn. He knows better. Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman claimed that it can only be removed by memory erasure (“In Love Without Memory”). Rebecca Miller (director and screenwriter) in “Love Without Warning” chooses a less drastic, not so futuristic, definitely more romantic variant. This does not mean that it offers us a typical Hollywood rom-com. Phew, fortunately none of these things.

Miller throws several unsuspecting New Yorkers into the emotional vortex. They lead a peaceful life in the eternal crisis of modern man, when suddenly the nefarious Cupid chooses them as a target for his arrows.

Opera composer Steven (Peter Dinklage) has suffered from artist’s block. He is unable to produce any note that would satisfy him, so his therapist wife Patricia (Anne Hathaway) suggests to him what works best in such situations: breaking the routine. There’s no point in sitting in front of the piano, crying on the sofa, tearing your hair out. Steven needs to go for a walk with his dog and talk to strangers. And in fact – it works. More than enough. Because this is how the man runs into Katrina (Marisa Tomei – almost unrecognizable in the blonde version), a love-addicted tugboat captain. The arrow hits perfectly, although initially one-sidedly, which causes an avalanche of adventures, both positive and negative, always with a pinch of salt, even when things get dramatic.

This isn’t the only arrow in “Love Without Warning” either.

The second (and third) hits Patricia’s son, Steven’s stepson Julian (Evan Ellison) and Tereza (Harlow Jane), Magdalena’s (Joanna Kulig) daughter. Here, things only seem obvious: a pair of teenagers in love with each other, convinced that the world belongs to them, curious about each other, their bodies and souls, aware that life may turn out differently, but willing to try. Because they believe in love and that it will survive, even when they grow up.

This romance would probably have developed smoothly if Tereza’s stepfather, Trey (Brian d’Arcy James), had not decided to interfere. This enthusiast of reconstruction groups, a court stenographer with friends in the police, a home-grown lawyer, a radical-traditionalist does not have much romanticism, but a lot of prejudices.

The latter may, but does not have to, also appear in a “class” context. Because it quickly turns out that Magdalena works as a cleaner for Patricia. How will this knowledge affect the relationship between young lovers? How will a well-to-do therapist and her composer husband react? Like Magdalena – when she found out that she was washing toilets at the mother of her daughter’s boyfriend…

The knots are tied, the arrows are fired! The meanders of love fate have begun.

Rebecca Miller’s work is romantic, yes, but not in a fairy-tale Hollywood style, but in an off-New York style. “Made in Brooklyn” is actually a whole trend of independent American cinema (and probably off-Broadway theater), from which Marisa Tomei and Peter Dinklage arise. “Love Without Warning” is closer to the films of Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, or early Woody Allen from “Annie Hall”, maybe at times “Girls” (especially when Tereza appears on the screen) than to “Maid in Manhattan”.

The characters’ lives may look quite ordinary, not all of them have to shine as if they had just stepped off the retouched cover of Vogue. However, they may be ruffled, disheveled, have their own weaknesses, even madness and credible panic attacks, which does not mean that Anne Hathaway, as the psychotherapist Patricia, will not be wearing an outfit that shows the balance of her account. Maybe it’s just a mask after all? Exactly, because in “Love Without Warning” the impulses of the heart have different colors. The inner voice can push not only into the arms of your other half, but also…

Patricia is hit by an unusual arrow. A bit of a different order, it seemed. Without a doubt, a beautiful tenement house inherited from her grandmother and patients with their problems are not what she is looking for. Is he just experiencing burnout, the crisis of a betrayed woman, or is he following a genuine need? I deliberately write the least about the choices that Anne Hathaway’s heroine faces, because it is the most unusual and surprising path and topic in a rom-com, even if it was treated lightly. But it’s still a rom-com, although it’s an independent one, but it’s not a psychological drama.

Rebecca Miller’s script follows its own path. Sometimes the author makes breakneck leaps, throws up a big topic, and then finds an easy and quick solution to it. As if it was enough to snap a finger – instead it makes time jumps during which all these difficult psychological processes related to changes have to happen… However, it has its own charm and lightness. Maybe instead of these traumas and efforts, it is sometimes better to see that their effect can be positive? Miller avoids sensationalism and focuses on simplicity as much as possible. Above all, he believes that no matter how complicated things get, a happy ending and peace can be achieved. And this applies to everyone.

“The life of every person in this park is material for an opera,” Steven says in one of the scenes, and in this short sentence you can probably find the whole meaning of “Love Without Warning”. Everyone can become the hero of their own opera and their own romantic comedy. “Everyone is vibrating, everyone is undergoing an internal transformation. At first, they feel unhappy about something, but through the course of events and meetings, they suddenly develop such full, valuable love for themselves,” Joanna Kulig says in an interview with Polish Radio about the film.

Exactly! Joanna Kulig. It was noticed by Americans thanks to the “Cold War”. “I often thank Paweł (Pawlikowski) that thanks to his film I can experience more wonderful things,” says the actress in an interview for the Polish Press Agency. Her talent was noticed by Rebecca Miller, but also by Michael Keaton, who invited her to the film he directed, “Knox Goes Away”. The photos for “Love…” were supposed to be shot before the pandemic, but when it broke out, it put the whole story into question, but it ended happily – with a premiere opening not just any event, but the Berlin festival itself.

The character of Magdalena exists on the screen almost equally with the characters of Dinklage, Hathaway and Tomei. She is not just a housekeeper or a cleaner who sweeps a rich house, her character gradually spreads her wings and begins to play an increasingly important role. It is also what makes a certain intrigue possible at all. And he cleans – he cleans because he wants to maintain some independence. She could choose not to work, but she wants to have her own money and not rely solely on her husband. Yes, she is under his control, but that does not mean that she is always and in every decision. And although this is not a creation like “Cold War”, it is a full-blooded and multidimensional character. And the fact that Joanna Kulig brings life into her paper bloodstream is probably obvious. And it is not surprising that American partners quickly accepted it.

In an interview with Daria Porycka for the Polish Press Agency, the actress says: “She (Rebecca Miller) immediately went to my heart and a bond quickly developed between us. Later I was worried whether it would also work with Anne Hathaway, whether we would be open to each other , or will it be a very formal contact and we won’t have the opportunity to get to know each other better? Meanwhile, we liked each other very much. Peter and Marisa were also great. The opportunity to meet them and watch how they work was a really great experience. I am grateful to all my colleagues for their support “they showed me on set. I really learned a lot.” I have no doubt that they also came from Joanna.

Is it worth spending an hour and a half of your time? For Joanna, definitely. But not only. “Love Without Warning” is a small, modest cinema with a big heart and soul. Not a hit, but just close. Because really anyone’s life can be the subject of an opera. Just look at them like that. Look like this and you will see everything.


“Love Without Warning” (She Came to Me), dir. Rebbeca Miller, USA 2023, distributor: M2Films, Polish cinema premiere: March 15, 2024.