Sex and love. Some seek it, some need it, some spurn it and some pay for it, but we're all involved in it. Set on one afternoon on Hampstead Heath, London, the film investigates the minutiae of seven couples. What makes us tick?
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Various Londeners meet people in Hampstead Heath park. Financial adviser Billy, a successful casual sex seeker, discusses the pros, contras and how of his child-wish. Cheeky Noel innocent pick-up lines lead only to cruelty from girls, once even abandoned jeans on ankles. Gerry's promising blind date picnic ends as abruptly when his business partner turns up, who just agreed a Barbados holiday with his steady girl. Eddie discovers trough a date mix-up that Iris, his ripe age, who come to the same park weekly too but a day earlier, was his prospective mate until they each met their now late partners decades ago. Pete comes settle the end of a marriage that shouldn't have happened except for his daughter. Written by
Sometimes perhaps one scene too many, Scenes of a Sexual Nature will entertain and engage the majority of those that see it.
Scenes of a Sexual Nature; a film that breaks away from your more typical story telling processes and yet remains a film that you oddly feel as if you've already seen. True, the idea that you place a load of different characters of different age, ethnic background, gender and sexuality in one massive boiling pot of conversation and intrigue certainly sounds like an interesting one and yet the whole experience left me feeling a little short-changed. Here is a film that doesn't rely on heroes and villains; that doesn't rely on any gimmicks or special effects but then again doesn't rely on anything new or spectacular. The camera remains static for most of the film; the location of Hampstead Heath which a large open park isn't utilised or made to look glamorous suggesting this could've taken place in a town, city or even on public transport and the film suffers from its amount of characters.
Credit where credit is due to filmmakers Ed Blum and writer Aschlin Ditta for attempting to make this film. We hear about major Hollywood projects going through 'development hell' due to one thing or another and yet Blum and Ditta have knuckled under and raised the money and time needed to shoot this quirky little independent film that has a touch of the 'guerrilla' about it. Scenes of a Sexual Nature is a film that covers a lot of ground in the sense it deals with issues such as: marriage; love; homosexuality; break-ups; divorce and even gay adoption with plenty of characters varying between young couples; elder would-be couples and single people of the young and middle aged variety so there is certainly something for everyone to map onto depending on any audience members current situation when dealing with the issue of love, something the film hints at when it says: ".....but we're all involved in it." at the very end of its tagline.
The main problem I had with Scenes of a Sexual Nature was not its pacing or its script or its situations but its number of characters and its overall tone. The film starts off in a very innocent if somewhat comic fashion what with a male and his partner having a picnic before she catches him staring at another girl's underwear that has accidentally become visible. What follows is an embarrassing situation where he is exploited and the couple storm off home. Compare this to the next scene in which a very tearful and edgy girl breaks up with her partner; the film changes tone very quickly and we are to feel sorry for the girl but wait; comic relief is just around the corner as Noel (Hardy) (park local anti-sociable) tries to cheer her up. This scene feels like is was supposed to be played out for laughs but it felt very disturbing in the sense Noel (like most people he is trying to portray) is really just after easy sex so there is a disturbing undercurrent to the whole scene. This is the point: the film cuts from the funny to the tragic to the heart-warming to the mere straightforward displacing a consistent feeling or a consistent mood.
The characters also play a large role in the film but often for the worse. The couple I mentioned at the very beginning are, unfortunately, never seen again which is a shame because their situation and overall short narrative was interesting, unpredictable and amusing. The elderly couple have an interesting and thought provoking meeting and their scenes work well but everyone else's are flat and un-involving since there is just nothing there in terms of depth: hearing two people talk about certain ways they'd hate to die or what have you were typical and routine that did nothing for me. This is linked to the other flaw I had with the characters: what they say. Often (especially evident in the 'first date' scene) the character will be on hand to say just the right thing at just the right time with other times, characters almost deliberately saying dumb things just to spark a reaction the racism debate the first daters have is an example when she assumes the shop clerk would be 'Asian'. I'm all for characters in films to have clever and smart conversations breaking away from the films main goal but only when its established exactly who they are and how clever they actually are getting two people to sit down and say exactly what's required when it's required isn't particularly convincing; the answer is cut the number of other characters.
I mentioned the film as a 'guerrilla' piece of film-making since it uses actors who are relatively unknown with some quite possibly possessing little or no acting experience. This suggests a neo-realistic approach and the low budget supports that theory but I was a little aware of the way the film would have the homosexuals cordoned off in a separate area of the park: away from everyone else as they inhabit they're own private 'ghetto' near the lake is there a reason they're not allowed to be in the main park? Also, the representation of the French girl in the opening scene as she allows the male one more glimpse of her underwear was a little out of place. However, with debates about gay adoption which actually takes up an entire scene in this film as well as issues of divorce and break up worming their way into the 'narrative', Scenes of a Sexual Nature will come across as smarter than normal to some viewers not to be mistaken as pornography given its title, Scenes of a Sexual Nature is often engaging and entertaining with whatever flaws it has easily erasable.
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