Elisa Kalani and Cazzie David Are Rethinking the Modern Rom-Com

Elisa Kalani

Photo courtesy of Nimrod Kamer.

I Love You Forever, a new film by Elisa Kalani and Cazzie David, is like two movies in one: a best friends comedy in which one roommate can’t find love, and a disturbing, distinctly modern romance that turns obsessive and hysterical when an insane boyfriend, Finn, requires his girlfriend Mckenzie to literally be with him all of the time and never not answer his texts. 

Filmed in Detroit before it premiered at South by Southwest last week, it’s an unlikely comedy about abusive relationships that stars Sofia Black-D’Elia, best known for her work in HBO’s The Night Of, and Ray Nicholson, son of Jack. It’s also the debut feature of Kalani and David, who first collaborated on a web series ages ago after meeting at Emerson College. While in Austin for the film’s premiere, David fell under the weather, but Kalani met up with me to discuss her savvy integration of technology in the film, from FaceTime etiquette to the addictive and algorithmic nature of dating apps. To the great disappointment of the paparazzi, Larry David, her co-director’s father, wasn’t able to make it to Austin.


NIMROD KAMER: Okay, I’m recording. Is Cazzie okay?

ELISA KALANI: She’s a little sick. She’s been doing such a good job of staying put together until the premiere, and now her body gave out.

KAMER: It’s such an exhausting day at South By Southwest. I’m collapsing. But I loved the vibe at the screening. Is it an abusive comedy, or a comedy about abuse?

KALANI: It’s kind of a modern day rom-com… involving abuse.

KAMER: And abusive to the audience.

KALANI: Yeah, abusive…

KAMER: In a good way.

KALANI: In a good way, in an intentional way. I’ve been apologizing all day to people, because they’re like, “That really gave me anxiety, that really put me through it.” And I’m like, “I’m so sorry, but that’s what we wanted.”

KAMER: In some scenes, you’re really happy. It’s almost like two films.

KALANI: It is like two films. Cazzie and I keep joking about how we never want to make something with scenes that dramatic again, because the fun days were so much fun, and the dramatic days were so hard and so heavy.

KAMER: Totally. The main character, Sophia, goes to a supermarket called “I Love You.” Is that the new Erewhon?

KALANI: It’s a little market in Detroit.

KAMER: It’s a real thing?

KALANI: It’s a real thing. We just drove by it one day and we said, “Can we shoot there?” Because we thought it was so cute.

KAMER: Then you titled the movie I Love You Forever because of that supermarket?

KALANI: No, it was already named that. It just felt like kismet. It was so cute and perfect. It’s Detroit’s little Erewhon to me.

KAMER: I didn’t even know it was shot in Detroit until you said it. There were no abandoned houses or raves. It looked like a nice town.

KALANI: Yeah, there were no rave scenes. Our party scene was actually missing a lot of extras, so it was the opposite of a rave. But we didn’t write the script for it to be Detroit specifically, though we ended up shooting there.

KAMER: And it’s your first feature?


KAMER: That’s a big deal.

KALANI: It feels like a big deal.

KAMER: Oh, totally. I love the tech element in the movie, the FaceTime, where she looks at her own face.


KAMER: Is that a thing? Looking at your own face the whole conversation?

KALANI: I try not to, but you have to check yourself out sometimes. You don’t check yourself out just to see?

KAMER: Sometimes I think, is it even a phone call or am I taking a selfie?

KALANI: No, exactly. It really makes you think. I mean, the phone is just melting our brains in so many ways that…

KAMER: And people keep changing their phone numbers in the movie.


KAMER: Is that a thing?

KALANI: It’s kind of like an abuse tactic. He did it, and it’s a sign that he’s not necessarily a stable person. And him bringing it up later, even though it’s not a thing she ever asked for, it’s just an abuse tactic.

KAMER: And then deleting all the messages to you.


KAMER: I really identify with that.

KALANI: Really? Because you don’t want any paper trail of what you say?

KAMER: Yeah, because then people just screenshot messages and send them to you three years later.

KALANI: How happy are you that the “unsend” feature exists now?

KAMER: On iMessage? Yeah.

KALANI: Do you use it?

KAMER: Yeah. And on Instagram, by the way, I always use it when someone after a long while…

KALANI: Yeah, when they stop answering?

KAMER: Yeah, I just delete what happened over the last three years.

KALANI: Even though they already saw it?

KAMER: Yeah, but maybe they forgot.

KALANI: So you just want to get rid of it for your own mental health?

KAMER: Yeah.

KALANI: Then it’s no longer a burden on your phone.

KAMER: So you have a best friend called Owen Thiele?


KAMER: He was in one scene.


KAMER: How come he wasn’t in more scenes?

KALANI: We love Owen so much, and we want to work with him again in the future. But it was such a small cast, and there wasn’t a part for him, unfortunately.

KAMER: It’s a really good scene.

KALANI: He’s amazing. He’s so captivating. He’s only in it for what, a minute? And he got one of the biggest laughs.

KAMER: He was in a Taylor Swift video once, right?

KALANI: I think he was in two Taylor Swift videos. You have to get to know him. He’s the coolest.

KAMER: Cool. I noticed TikTok was mentioned once. It feels more like an Instagram movie than a TikTok movie.

KALANI: I think we’re on the border of Gen Z and Millennial, age-wise, so I think that’s probably the right ratio of Instagram to TikTok, right? I’m on TikTok all the time, but TikTok is also so new to me that it still feels kind of corny. Does that make sense?

KAMER: Yeah.

KALANI: Whereas, Instagram has been around for so long that it feels like getting a fax.

KAMER: Yeah. And TikTok is not for friends, because you’re looking at Chinese cooking videos.

KALANI: I’m looking at strangers doing all sorts of things. What’s on your algorithm?

KAMER: Cats. I have two cats.

KALANI: I have a cat.

KAMER: Yeah?

KALANI: Yeah, but I don’t get that much cat stuff.

KAMER: I love the explore page scene in the movie.

KALANI: Oh yeah?

KAMER: But it’s Churchill quotes. Who even gets Churchill quotes?

KALANI: It’s so funny. I like all the algorithm stuff in this film. I liked when Jake, the guy that Mackenzie was hooking up with, was swiping and had those girls in bikinis on his feed.

KAMER: Oh, yeah. When people go on Raya dates, they go to the toilet in the middle to keep swiping.

KALANI: No, like a hundred percent. At a certain point, it’s a video game. You’re just addicted to the feeling of swiping and seeing new faces.

KAMER: Yeah. And I love Sophia [Black-D’Elia], the actress.

KALANI: Yeah, she was in The Night Of.

KAMER: My favorite show.

KALANI: Really?

KAMER: Yeah.

KALANI: She’s amazing in that.

KAMER: How did you find her? Or decide on her?

KALANI: We have seen her in a bunch of things. She also had a show called Single Drunk Female. She’s an amazing actress. She’s incredible. She can do a lot and she also has really good comedic timing.

KAMER: By the way, you and Cazzie should do merch.

KALANI: Well, let’s see, Nimrod. Help us sell the movie and we’ll make merch.

KAMER: Yeah, okay. What else should we touch on? Are you watching any other films here?

KALANI: I am trying to make time to watch films. I downloaded the South By app and there’s so many movies I want to see. But I’m waiting for these two PR ladies to tell me when I can go.