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It's 1997 and New York City is in a state of intense flux when documentary filmmaker Erik Rothman (Thure Lindhardt) first meets Paul Lucy (Zachary Booth), a handsome but closeted lawyer in the publishing field. What begins as a highly charged first encounter soon becomes something much more, and a relationship quickly develops. As the two men start building a home and life together, each continues to privately battle their own compulsions and addictions. A film about sex, friendship, intimacy and most of all, love, Keep the Lights On takes an honest look at the nature of relationships in our times. Written by
It seems like some reviews here didn't quite "get" it...
Okay, really? This movie is "homophobic" and "makes it look like all gay men smoke crack"? That it didn't seem "believable"? Huh. Maybe because I watched it not only knowing it was largely a true story, but also having read the real-life memoir of the man represented in the film by "Paul" (Bill Clegg), but I thought it did a very good job of depicting the tragedy of being in a relationship with someone fundamentally f*cked up and not being able to let them go until far too late. The acting was spot-on, particularly from Thure Lindhardt, and the portrayals were entirely believable. In no context whatsoever was it intentionally designed to depict gay men as insatiable crackheads.
As for complaints that basically go back to verisimilitude: people, it's an indie flick, and a super- low-budget one at that. You can't realistically depict Manhattan circa 1998 that way, nor can you have characters whose attire and hairstyles change all that much during the film. (That said, I've seen photos of Bill Clegg, and his super-preppy "look" -- which is how Paul is consistently depicted in the film -- hasn't really changed much over the years.) My only issue in this regard was in terms of easily avoidable problems; in the second scene for instance, set in 1998, Erik walks by what is clearly recognizable (to a New Yorker, at least) as one of the bus shelters constructed within the past five years or so. They really had to shoot on *that* street?
My problems with the film weren't with the acting, but more with its failure to fully flesh out Paul as a character. I'm unclear whether this was intentional -- in the context of "you can never *really* know someone" -- but Paul started out as an enigma and largely stayed that way. I understand that this comes with the territory with a largely autobiographical film written by the protagonist, Erik (though I have no clue whatsoever why he's Danish, to the extent of having conversations in Danish with his sister - Ira Sachs is American and Jewish, though obviously a real-life filmmaker), but hewing so closely to a real-life timeline left Sachs with too little time to delve into what compelled him to stay with "Paul" for such an extended period. I also thought there were a few too many largely extraneous side plots, particularly involving Erik's BFF's biological-clock issues and the weird muscley guy Erik inexplicably hooked up with two times five years apart. And why did a solitary, unexplained pair of scenes have him going to Virginia for an extended period of time? (neither of which had anything whatsoever to do with the main plot)
Still, even given its flaws, it's one of the best gay-themed indie films I've seen in quite some time (though "Weekend" is still better all around). It avoids the most typical gay-film clichés (the coming-out stories, the happy endings, the life revolving around discos and fabulous hags) to deliver something raw and real.
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