'Keep The Lights On': Nuanced Take On Doomed Love | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

'Keep The Lights On': Nuanced Take On Doomed Love

Play associated audio

Hot-weather Hollywood blockbusters have now cooled off, so the cineplex will be a quieter place for the next few months. But there can be intensity even in intimate films, as evidenced by the relationship drama Keep the Lights On.

Erik is a promising filmmaker whose "promise" is beginning to wear a little thin when we first encounter him talking on the phone, on a hookup line for men. This commitment-free shortcut to physical intimacy says a lot about Erik's approach to life. He likes the start of things — follow-through is not his strong suit. Still, this particular hookup goes so well, he dares to hope for something more.

The man on the other end of the phone, Paul, meets up with Erik, but tells him, "I have a girlfriend ... so don't get your hopes up." Nevertheless, they fall back into bed, and into a relationship passionate enough to surprise them both. Paul's girlfriend falls by the wayside, while the men move in together — and stay together for nine years.

There is a glitch in the relationship, though. Paul does drugs — a lot of drugs. It's his "little secret," which he asks Erik to keep to himself because "people in the publishing business like to gossip."

Filmmaker Ira Sachs reportedly modeled this story on his longtime relationship with literary agent Bill Clegg, who's written his own book about struggling with addiction, so ... well, don't get your hopes up, at least about the couple on screen.

The film, though, is as sure-footed as their partnership is not — a nuanced portrait of emotional turmoil, persuasively acted, richly sensual one moment, wrenching the next, and unlike so many films centering on gay characters, not particularly concerned with things like coming out or HIV.

The film is, in fact, evocative of a place and time — Manhattan at the turn of the millennium — when two gay, urban sophisticates could manage to mess things up even though they seemingly have everything going for them: money, passion, a gay-friendly environment and friends so supportive they're almost hectoring in their love.

Given the story's origins, it's understandable that Keep the Lights On keeps its focus on Erik's growth more than on Paul's addiction. The young filmmaker-of-promise matures considerably on screen. And as for director Sachs, one might say Keep the Lights On qualifies as promise fulfilled.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Passages' Author Reflects On Her Own Life Journey

Gail Sheehy is famous for her in-depth profiles of influential people, as well as her 1976 book on common adult life crises. Now she turns her eye inward, in her new memoir Daring: My Passages.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Go To The Border To Court Voters

Republicans have won every statewide office in Texas for 20 years, but the growing Hispanic population tends to vote Democrat, and the GOP's survival may depend on recruiting Hispanic supporters.
NPR

In San Diego, A Bootcamp For Data Junkies

Natasha Balac runs a two-day boot camp out of the San Diego Supercomputer Center for people from all types of industries to learn the tools and algorithms to help them analyze data and spot patterns in their work.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.