There’s a scene in “She Came to Me,” the writer-director Rebecca Miller’s juggling act of a romantic comedy, that sounds like the setup of a joke: An opera composer and a tugboat skipper walk into a Brooklyn dive bar. The composer’s wife, a psychiatrist, is back at their brownstone. But for the blocked composer, Steven (Peter Dinklage), his wife, Patricia (Anne Hathaway), and his seafaring muse, Katrina (Marisa Tomei), what happens next is hardly a laughing matter.
The unexpected liaison cures Steven’s writer’s block. It also provides an object for Katrina’s affection — or, rather, affliction. “I’m addicted to romance,” she tells Steven, revealing an anomaly in her otherwise independent personality. As for Patricia, she’s got her own compulsions. This is a romantic triangle that may recall the screwball of a Nancy Meyers rom-com.
Buoyed by a score from Bryce Dessner of the rock band the National, an original Bruce Springsteen song and the expert performances of its all-in ensemble, the film also casts a luminous aura around a first love, that of two high schoolers, Julian (Evan Ellison) and Tereza (Harlow Jane). He’s Patricia’s son and Steven’s stepson; she’s the daughter of their housekeeper, Magdalena (Joanna Kulig in a soulful turn). Tereza’s stepfather, Trey (Brian d’Arcy James), is a persnickety Civil War re-enactor and a court reporter.
The teenagers’ relationship hits serious snags, through no fault of their own. Age plays a part, but so does class and Julian’s race; he identifies as Black. Amid the roiling neuroses of the adults, the young beloveds provide the film with a surprising emotional ballast.
She Came to Me
Rated R for salty language. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. In theaters.