Of all the social discovery platforms for film lovers in all the towns in all the world, she walked into his. Last week, Ben Crew, a 26-year-old documentarian and screenwriter from the Mississippi coast, took to the internet to share that he had, like many before him, found a girlfriend on an app—but unlike many before him, that app was Letterboxd, a social network where people rate movies. And even more implausibly, he said that the two had connected because they both rated the movie Mank five stars.
Really, Mank? Who liked Mank that much? This I had to hear. Crew and his new lady friend, Erica Marquis, a 27-year-old who works in financial technology in Chicago, joined me on a Zoom call to tell me the whole sordid tale. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Heather Schwedel: So you honestly and truly met because of your Mank reviews?
Ben: We’d both been on Letterboxd for around a year. It’s a cool service where you log movies you watched and like other reviews. Obviously, 2020 was not a good year for dating, and we had both become very disillusioned with dating apps. We both in the back of our mind had this thought that what if you could match with someone based on movies? It wasn’t that we wanted to actively try and find a partner on Letterboxd, but we both gave Mank five stars. Somehow, I came across her review and liked it, and we both started following each other from that.
Erica: After a few months using the app, I started to get a certain amount of mutual followers, so then I would start to comment on people’s reviews.
Ben: So we just started liking reviews on and off. And we would occasionally talk in the reviews for movies. I remember Malcolm and Marie, we both did not care for that movie. And she commented on mine and I was like, “We might be flirting here?”
Erica: We started to go back and forth on the film reviews because there’s no DM feature on Letterboxd. I started to reply to more of his reviews, so then we kind of built up a rapport.
Ben: I started to casually watch movies that I know that she likes, and thought this will be some kind of hint to her that maybe we could talk some more.
Erica: I was like, “Oh my God, that’s such a funny coincidence.” I didn’t know he was doing it on purpose.
Ben: I watched Brief Encounter on Valentine’s Day, which is romantic, and then she added it to her watch list afterward so I was like, “Oh, OK.” I was like, “There’s more signs there.”
Erica: That wasn’t intentional. It just looked like a great movie.
Ben: You did like that review, which is a very romantic movie, so it was like, there’s an in here.
Erica: You posted a review of that Chris Rock movie where you slipped in that you were single, and that was it for me.
Ben: She thought that was a sign.
Erica: The I Think I Love my Wife review, you were like, “Well, as a single guy … “ Then I was like, “Oh, he’s totally into me.”
What do you do when you have a Letterboxd crush, though? How do you make a move?
Erica: I added him on Twitter because Letterboxd is linked to your Twitter. So I’m like, well if I can’t DM him on here, maybe I can DM him on Twitter. Followed him, and he didn’t add me back. I was annoyed.
Ben: I didn’t notice! I had thought that in the future, if there was a way to reach out to her, then I’ll DM her. But she ended up emailing me directly. In January, I went viral for writing a spec script for The Muppets Great Gatsby. She had read the script. She said, “Don’t I follow that guy on Letterboxd?” Because my email is on the cover page, she directly emailed me.
So are you guys official now?
OK, but back to Mank: You have to admit that Mank is a weird movie for this story to hinge on.
Ben: That’s the funniest thing, reading the tweets and people are like, “Seriously, Mank? These two deserve each other.” It’s so funny reading people who just hate that movie. I think the top comment says something like, “Being tasteless paid off.”
Erica: I really went all in on Mank. I actually watched a bunch of movies from the year that Citizen Kane came out, because Mank is about the making of Citizen Kane. I was really shocked when people didn’t like it. I’m not going to lie, I mean, I thought it was really good. I guess what also you can say is we’re both huge history nerds. So maybe it was that combined with the gorgeous cinematography, the acting. I don’t know.
Ben: I love David Fincher because The Social Network’s one of my favorite movies. And The Social Network was actually my go-to date movie in college, which was a stupid film bro thing. So when Mank was coming up, I said, “Oh, this is the movie I’m most excited for.” And people are like, “Oh, would I like it?” I’m like, “Oh absolutely not. It’s a black and white movie about the making of Citizen Kane.” If people do think we have bad taste and deserve each other, I guess we do deserve each other then.
No love for Nomadland? Minari?
Ben: Didn’t you fall asleep during Nomadland?
Erica: Yeah, I didn’t like Nomadland. It’s fine, Frances McDormand’s great, happy for Chloe Zhao.
I wonder what would have happened if you had met organically in real life and not on Letterboxd.
Ben: When I first saw her, I thought, “Oh, she’s really cute. Too bad she lives in Chicago.” I thought she was someone who, if I was at a bar, I’d definitely try and hit up, and be like, “Oh, Mank …” Not that Mank would get brought up at a bar.
Erica: That would be the dream, though.