The Carmel Valley-based Women's Institute of Southern California laid down the red carpet last week for a screening of the movie "You" at Torrey Hills Resort Apartments. There were no empty seats in the Torrey Hills theater as a group gathered to watch the warm and emotional film; tissue packets were handed out to each audience member.
Women's Institute Founder Laure Capozza said they selected the movie to promote women in film, as "You" marks the directorial debut of actress Melora Hardin, who plays Jan on the TV show "The Office."
"She is just the kind of woman we look to support," Capozza said.
Hardin and her husband Gildart Jackson made the film with their own money (as well as acting in the film's starring roles) and have taken an unique path in its release: The film is available online on iTunes, Amazon and on YouTheFilm.com.
Carmel Valley marked the first stop on their tour of select cities around the country.
Hardin said the screenings allow a great opportunity to connect with her audience.
"When people watch the film, their hearts open and they want to talk about it," Hardin said.
The film is really a love story, detailing the love between a husband and wife but also between a father and daughter. Rawdon's (Jackson) life is interrupted when his beloved wife Miranda (Hardin) dies in a car accident. After her death, she remains as a glowing presence around him as he faces the challenges of raising their daughter Quincy alone.
The audience flips through time, watching the bewildered dad trying to leave $100 under Quincy's pillow from the tooth fairy, frantically trying to track her down when she runs away and begrudgingly meeting boyfriends.
The film is much about grief, about letting go and moving on, while still holding tight to the most important pieces.
The movie was a family affair - Hardin's parents, Jerry and Diane, both act in the film and as do her daughters, Piper and Rory. Hardin's folks get plenty of laughs and Rory, 7 years old, is absolutely heartbreaking. Actresses Brenda Strong and Joely Fisher also appear.
The film was a long process in its making - Piper was 8 months old when they shot the first scene and she is now 4. Hardin said it's satisfying to see "You" begin the screening process. She said it's "like having another baby."
"You" was Hardin and Jackson's first film together; on screen their fuzzy feelings toward each other aren't hidden.
"We plan on making many, many more together," Hardin said. "I think they will always have a family feel."