Maybe it’s me and I’ve been spoilt in quality gay cinema with Andrew Haigh’s towering WEEKEND that released earlier on this year but heading into KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, which has been touted, lauded, praised and nominated for a slew of awards I was thinking I might experience something even more personal and affecting. I didn’t.
Ira Sachs (Writer/Director) has already established himself as a major film talent with his previous features MARRIED LIFE, FORTY SHADES OF BLUE and THE DELTA so when it came down to the festival season and his new effort KEEP THE LIGHTS ON – the bar was already set pretty high.
Based on a true life story – KEEP THE LIGHTS ON tells the tale of the tumultuous relationship between Erik, a documentary film maker, and Paul, a closeted lawyer. Within the pairing we are met with multiple lovers, drug addiction, catty bitch fits and arrogant unpleasantness with sparing moments of levity and passion.
But what could’ve been an incredibly intimate and personal account of an extremely affecting relationship is instead dealt out with so much pretense, self indulgent arrogance and pompous rigour that it makes almost every character immediately unlikeable.
It seems Sachs is deadset on only accommodating the New York Pomp in this film, the central protagonists are not in the least bit sympathetic or, for my money, likeable at all. Disguising the films biting undercurrent are flashes of artistic merit, namely leveraged off the documentary Rick is making, but its not enough to make me care what happens to either of them.. (I must confess I did wish at one point they’d been eaten by sharks).
Its also slavish trapped by gay b-movie conventions, plenty of sex, superfluous nudity (don’t get your hopes up – its not anything you’d particularly want to see) and the must have gay nightclub toilet scene.
This film just wasn’t for me – I say stick to WEEKEND and let this ancy gay offering go.