›› Keep the Lights On
a film by Ira Sachs.
2012 | 102 mins | US.
principal players: Thure Lindhardt / Erik, Zachary Booth / Paul, Paprika Steen / Karen, Sebastian La Cause / Russ, Julianne Nicholson / Claire, Sarah Hess / Katie, Roberta Kirshbaum / Katie's Mom, Jamie Petrone / Katie's Cousin, Maria Dizzia / Vivian, Stella Schnabel / Esther, Jodie Markell / Jill, Justin Reinsilber / Dan, Miguel del Toro / Igor and Marilyn Neimark as herself.
Adapted Synopsis: "It's the late nineties and Danish filmmaker Erik Rothman is into anonymous pickups; Manhattan style, forever cruising the 'phone sex lines that see him hook-up with closeted lawyer Paul Lucy. Yet what was meant to be a one-night stand soon develops into a more permanent relationship, as both start to build a life together, whilst privately battling their own demons, addictions that threaten to destroy their relationship."
Some films stay with you long after the end credits have rolled and this intense relationship drama is one of them. Then again, is that any surprise when co-writer and director Ira Sachs of The Delta credit here delights in taking you on an all too realistic rollercoaster ride, in the process chronicling the emotional highs and lows to the cycle of love that underpins the bond between his two protagonists.
Told dateline fashion and intercut with scenes of a movie within a movie, courtesy of Erik's documentary styled tribute to the life and times of Avery Willard, the dominant theme throughout is the relationship between the two men. And it is here that Sachs strikes out, bravely showcasing the raw baggage of life, as Paul's addiction to drugs, is just as much a compulsive yearning as Erik's need for sex. That both men love each other, but would be better off living separate lives is all but clear, given a threesome of a variant nature should have had alarm bells ringing. What remains however is the ever recurring question, of whether or not their love can last the test of time?
The cycle of love in Keep the Lights On.
It is a theme that is poignantly handled by Sachs, as he juxtaposes moments of pure joy with scenes of bitter heartbreak, leaving many I dare say left bewildered by way of Erik's devotion to a man all but hell-bent on self-destruction. All of which makes for a remarkably honest portrait of a dysfunctional relationship, with Thure Lindhardt of Brotherhood fame every inch the immigrant documentary director living the New York life, only to see that life turned both upside down and inside out over the course of nine years.
Can love last the test of time? in Keep the Lights On.
Somewhat let down by flawed pacing and a number of side characters who in drifting in and out of Erik's life, would have been better served staying the distance, it nevertheless is the emotional frankness of the piece that cuts to the very core of sexual attraction, as the struggle to keep a seemingly terminal relationship going is played out right before your eyes. Achingly bittersweet, kind of goes without saying.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - the brief monty.
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars.