Couch Potato’s DVD Pickings: Keep the Lights On

Being a very honest depiction of a long-term relationship Keep the Lights On is a very apt title for this episodic movie.

Directed by Ira Sachs, and apparently semi-autobiographical, this film offers a window into a decade-long relationship between two men – Danish documentary-maker Erik (Thure Lindhart) and lawyer Paul (Zachary Booth), who meet in new York in the 1990s.

When the men start cohabiting, they inevitably discover what they don’t like so much about each other. Motivated by the fits and starts of film production, Erik has a sporadic self-motivating approach to work which mildly irritates lawyer Paul whose work ethic is much more routine and organised. However, Paul has a worrying crack addiction which doesn’t make Erik happy at all. But nevertheless, the pair endeavour to battle through their differences over the course of a decade – enjoying laughter and passion as well as tears and heartache, determined ultimately that their love will conquer all.

Thanks to its numerous (and often graphic) sex scenes, this film will probably appeal mainly to a gay audience, but it is important to note that it’s not a gay movie. What I mean by that is that it’s not issue-based. It’s simply a love story which offers a glimpse into a longterm relationship between two people, who just happen to be two men. It has similarities to Andrew Haigh‘s Weekend in this respect but that movie was about an intense weekend-long relationship between two men, whereas this one tells its story over  ten years – so has a very different approach.

And by that I mean it’s episodic – offering brief glimpses into the long-term relationship between its two protagonists. Sachs doesn’t let us in on the day to day details but Lindhart and Booth‘s performances make the two characters seem accessible and real. This  doesn’t make it a disjointed story as it’s actually very involving, but this structure does allow the viewer to stand back and observe rather than plunge headfirst into the usual emotional trappings of a traditional love story.

And the filmmaking approach compliments this objective viewpoint perfectly – with the honesty of the grainy visuals, as well as subtle style changes to mark the passing of time. It’s an honest, sometimes raw, picture of a modern love affair. Definitely worth a watch (but do be prepared for the sex scenes!).

Keep the Lights On is released by Peccadillo Pictures on 28th January 2013.

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