London Film Festival 2012 – day three: Keep the Lights On
Tuesday 16th October, 8.45pm – Vue Leicester square
Wednesday 17th October, 9pm – Screen on the Green
Keep the Lights On dissects a troubled relationship over a 10-year period. Film-maker Erik starts a relationship with respectable literary lawyer Paul after meeting through a sex chat line. Over the years, Paul’s crack addiction and Erik’s emotional immaturity and promiscuity take their toll on the relationship.
The film’s director, Ira Sachs, lays his cards on the table early in terms of the films content; the credits feature innumerable nude paintings of men. The film features exceptionally explicit sex scenes throughout, at points it feels like Sachs is challenging the audience.
In a way, it would be laudable for Sachs to include gay sex scenes in an effort normalise homosexual sex in cinema. The problem is that there are occasions where some of the content is included for no other reason but to be graphic. A sex scene that involves the inclusion of a fecal based accident and a scene where Erik masturbates in a park bear no relation to the plot or character development.
Keep the Lights On has one major flaw: the story. The plot just isn’t engaging enough. The film is well-acted, well-shot, well-constructed and even well-written. However, at the end of the film one is left questioning whether the story they have just witnessed was worth telling. Erik is unlikeable – his whining and immaturity ensure that we neither root for him, nor feel pathos for his situation. Paul’s drug habit seems to have very little impact on his life; physically the crack has no impact on him and he suffers no financial repercussions. The impression is that Keep the Lights On is trying to elicit sympathy for incredibly rich, unpleasant people with no problems except those that are self-inflicted.
While one may respect Ira Sachs for his unflinching portrayal of the gay experience – an oft underrepresented viewpoint in cinema – one can’t help but feel let down by the nauseating hypocrisy of the characters and lack of thrust in the narrative.
Read more reviews from the 56th London Film Festival here.
Watch the trailer for Keep the Lights On: