The Complex Overlap Between Love & Friendship in “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List”
Two twenty-something best friends living in the Big Apple, sharing secrets and coffee cups as they navigate through the intricate path of dealing with trauma, change, love and friendship- that is perhaps the best description of the 2015 romcom “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List”. However, if you thought this is a ditzy teen movie with a fairly innocuous storyline, you are in for quite a surprise!
“Ely and I, we’re city kids who never had big backyards, but we’ll always have each other. Some friendships are so important, you do anything to make them last. That’s why Ely and I created the ‘No Kiss List’.”, is heard from the voiceover at the beginning of the movie, and it truly speaks volumes. The voice comes from Naomi, the protagonist of this movie, who immediately plunges us into her and Ely’s history and relationship dynamic. The depth of their bond is evident from that simple three-sentence opening, yet that bond, although seemingly solid and stable, appears to be wobbly and mostly based on habit and a forced sense of control, rather than trust and open communication.
Later we also learn that they share a common trauma, which also adds to the toxicity of their relationship. The trauma in question occurred when Naomi’s father cheated on her mother with one of Ely’s lesbian mothers. This turns Naomi into a bit of a control freak in terms of her relationship with Ely. Seeing her mother fall into a depressive state of mind after her father had left makes Naomi paralyzed by the mere thought of change, hence why she ends up doing everything in her power to keep Ely, including daydreaming of forming a romantic relationship with him, even though Ely identifies as a gay man, because she witnessed his lesbian mother turn away from same-sex attraction.
Ely, conversely, fully embraces change and is very much the “go with the flow” kind of person. He respects Naomi’s wishes, but still follows his intuition and does what feels right to him at any given moment, keenly aware of the fact that Naomi is and will forever remain a constant in his life. Although Ely loves Naomi as much as she loves him, he is not as concerned about who she dates because he is not romantically attracted to her. This is precisely where divide occurs.
However, unlike many other examples of opposite sex friendships that experience a sudden downfall in media, “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List” poses a different reasoning behind their (temporary) split. It may appear that the reason why Naomi and Ely “broke up” simply because Naomi felt betrayed by Ely after he got together with her boyfriend Bruce 2, who she never actually cared for, yet she very much loved Ely and him being romantically entangled with another man confirmed to her once and for all that he was completely sure of his identity. Knowing that she and Ely will never have a chance crushed her. Now, that may seem like a typical reason for breaking up a friendship, but there is a twist!
Naomi never loved Ely romantically. She only thought she did. What she fell in love with was the idea of him and the convenience of a relationship with a familiar face. Once she became aware of this, Ely returned back to her life and their friendship gained a new maturity that wasn’t present before.
Ely helped her realize the power of change; the duality of love and friendship; and the unbreakable unity that is their friendship. And Naomi taught Ely to be more patient and not meddle in other people’s business so much. Their “break up” was vital for discovering who they are, what they want from each other, as well as other people and growing from their experiences.
Ultimately, what they both learnt was to treat love and friendship with same care because romance and friendship are one and the same. Naomi explained it best in the final scene by saying: “It’s bullshit to think of friendship and romance as being different. They’re not. They’re just variations of the same love. Variations of the same desire to be close.”