The new film from American director Ira Sachs is a sparsely scripted, simple take on love, loss, and addiction.
Erik (played by up and coming ‘Copenhagenite’ Thure Lindhardt) is a Danish documentary filmmaker with committal issues. After several promiscuous endeavours, he lands himself on the door step of his soul mate, the newly outed Paul (Zachary Booth, who was also in Dark Horse a couple of reviews back). Over the case of nine years, all played out in fluttering episodes, we see their turbulent relationship bloom, wilt and reinvigorate.
Ira Sachs has always been a problematic filmmaker for me. Whether it’s Sundance winner Forty Shades of Blue or his failed shot at the indie big time with 2007’s Married Life, it felt like the biggest fan of Sachs’ films had been himself. Muddled, mumbled, and sluggish, the films are presented with an unmerited ostentatious streak which one has begrudgingly come to expect from a NY, upstate indie bod. Now into his fifth feature, Sachs’ decides to cut the crap with Keep the Lights On, a cathartic creation which centres around his own experiences within a drug-fuelled gay relationship and his inability to let go.
Although certainly more mature than his previous work, this personal film is testament to Ira Sachs being one of the most sombre, humourless directors in America today. Focusing so desperately on making Paul and Erik’s passionate relationship natural, and missing the rife potential for comic relief in the process.
Told predominately through Ira’s own eyes, i.e. Erik’s, the partisanship disables us to devote the strong emotional attachment which the characters are so longingly craving. Furthermore, aside from the graphic but graciously shot sex scenes and one surprise birthday party cliché, Sachs never really lets us see the relationship at the peak of it’s adoration and love. Instead, all the grimness is thrown at the walls with Paul going astray on drug binges and Erik wandering the streets like a little lost, overtly camp puppy. The sorrow result will be certainly affecting for some, but perhaps too trite for most.
PS – Say what you like about the film, but there’s a flipping marvellous use of Arthur Russell in the soundtrack. Gotta love that guy.