The unlikely combination of a creatively stunned opera composer, a Romeo and Juliet subplot, an alluring tugboat seductress and a civil war reenactment battle comes together to tell a multi-generational love story in the romantic comedy-drama, “She Came to Me,” by acclaimed filmmaker Rebecca Miller ’84.

“She Came to Me” sports a star-studded cast, including Peter Dinklage, Anne Hathaway and Marisa Tomei. The 102-minute film was screened for members of the Yale community at 3 p.m. on Sept. 16 in the Humanities Quadrangle, followed by a Q&A session and reception, during which Yale film enthusiasts had the opportunity to speak with Miller about her process behind the film’s camera.

“I have a tendency to make films almost in pairs,” said Miller about the film’s similarities to “Maggie’s Plan,” another romantic comedy-drama she wrote and directed starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore and Bill Hader. “My first film, ‘Angela,’ is very connected to ‘The Ballad of Jack and Rose,’ which has a much more melancholic tone. ‘Personal Velocity: Three Portraits’ and ‘The Private Lives of Pippa Lee’ have their own structural similarities, and in this one, I was really interested in the tradition of screwball or romantic comedy.”

The movie follows Steven (Peter Dinklage), a struggling opera composer whose neat-freak wife, Patricia (Anne Hathaway), urges him to seek inspiration. Steven finds the muse of his next opera, titled “She Came to Me,” in a humble female tugboat operator (Marisa Tomei) who seduces him. As Steven’s play develops, so too does the relationship between two teenage lovers, Tereza (Harlow Jane) and Julien (Evan Ellison), under the authoritative rule of Tereza’s father (Brian d’Arcy James). 

“I really loved the film, and it was wonderful to watch with Bryce Dessner’s music in the background just because we’ve been getting to know him better and better within the past couple of years,” said Rachel Fine, executive director for the Schwarzman Center.

Dessner ’98 MUS ’99, who lent his talents for the soundtrack of “She Came to Me,” returned to Yale this past year for a residency with the Schwarzman Center. The breadth of his musical experience — having played for his Grammy-winning band, The National, and having collaborated with artists such as Philip Glass, Paul Simon and Taylor Swift — is on full display, scoring the emotional complexities of love.

The Grammy-winning artist’s compositions brought an extra layer of emotion to the film, especially in scenes like the reconciliation between Tereza and her mother.

Miller met Dessner through her friendship with Katia Labèque, an internationally renowned French pianist and the pianist of the film.

“She highly recommended him as someone who had written concertos for her and her sister, and had written opera,” Miller said. “He’s in ‘The National,’ and he’s done film scores before. We had a wonderful relationship and a beautiful collaboration.”

According to Jennifer Harrison Newman DRA ’11, associate artistic director at the Schwarzman Center, in a conversation with Miller, “It’s interesting that [Miller’s] film was bookended with opera, and in the middle we have this rom-com — so its ‘rom-com’ as operatic.” 

Miller responded by talking about the inspiration she took from Western tropes of classic romantic comedies, such as Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where she said the erroneously arranged couples are reunited with their correct matches in a “magical way.”

She added that she wanted to take the side-by-side romantic comedy and opera-composing seriously, without making a joke of the romance.

After the film’s screening and Q&A portion, guests of the premiere traveled to the Well for a catered reception that allowed them to mingle with Miller, Schwarzman Center members and fellow film enthusiasts. The reception was a celebration of cinema and creativity, with conversations flowing as freely as champagne.

“I loved Yale. It was very important to me in developing my practice as an artist, learning about color, learning about composition and learning about the discipline it takes to be an artist, no matter whether you’re a painter, filmmaker or writer,” Miller said. “And then, of course, my son came here and was a painter, so I feel very connected to Yale and always love an excuse to come back here,” said Miller. 

“She Came to Me” was granted an interim agreement from the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, meaning that the movie’s cast will be able to promote their film despite the fact that actors are on strike against major studios and streamers. 

“She Came to Me” will open in theaters Oct. 6.

CODY SKINNER
Cody Skinner covers art exhibitions, performances, and fashion. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he is a first-year in Franklin College majoring in computer science.