The world is upside down, at least for the men and women in it. Women are the ones that matter. They are credited with more strength, capability and emotional maturity. Men, on the other hand, are the sentimentalists—the ones who care about fashion, home and cooking. There are a bunch of ‘masculinists’ though, who are ‘breaking stereotypes’ by asserting their wants and rights, and quite predictably, they are scoffed at by traditional women and men alike.
Just when you start imagining scenarios around these possibilities, what could simultaneously come to mind are the problems within a simplistic gender role-reversal that only reinforce the existing gender norms. I’m Not an Easy Man, despite giving this idea a jump-start that looks a little hasty, has its mind set on a few arguments that it deftly pulls off.
This French film was released in 2018 and is now streaming on Netflix. From the get-go, the movie talks about gender equations. It largely takes into account only the male-female binary of the gender ecosystem when conversations have expanded beyond the male-female paradigm. However, this brisk walk on a lane thus reversed will make you watch the road even more carefully.
Damien, an unapologetic flirt, wakes up to a whole new world one day, after a minor accident. He realises that he’s in a parallel world, and that there’s a massive shift in perspective here. Women run this world. Men are largely on the sides. And since Damien becomes our eyes in this fast-paced, quick-witted narrative, we see that there are changes even in the simplest of body language among men and women. Women don the protective hat and opt for comfort clothing that spells ‘sensible’ whereas men want their approval and are conscious of this ongoing scrutiny at all times. Fathers seem to be worried about sons who aren’t ‘dating’ or ‘settled down’ yet. Mothers don’t seem to care.
It does look like a stretch at first, because the narrative seems to be relying on gender attributes largely accepted by the society for the male and the female and simply flipping them to its convenience to portray a different world. But it’s not quite like that. When Damien himself starts to experience the conflicts despite knowing that the ‘actual world’ isn’t constructed this way, we start seeing how the concept of privilege works and what power structures can do to relationships.
Two key points that I’m Not an Easy Man puts on the table are unchecked male privilege and the insecurity that stems from unequal partnerships. The film tries to establish that the latter can easily occur as a direct result of not having privilege in the first place, be it in the case of men or women. So when a man is said to be more sentimental and vulnerable in the parallel universe, it goes beyond a simple gender-reversal; it displaces ‘sentimentality’ as a feminine attribute. This brilliant set-up from the writers and director of the film—Éléonore Pourriat—slowly starts to unfold in its second half, where you catch glimpses of human behaviour under set notions of society and gender—be it male, female or anyone else on the gender spectrum.
I’m Not an Easy Man is a fun watch, especially because it relies on a farcical ride of sorts while trying to drive home a point. With a smart title, playing on the association of the word ‘easy’ when read alongside a woman, the film flips the world as it’s known to us, not just for the fun of it, but also to signal at the power of easy privilege that remains so invisible to those who have it.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.