Keep the Lights On tells the story of a Danish filmmaker, Erik (Thure Lindhardt), who’s working on a new documentary and living in New York City. He enters a loving yet complicated relationship with Paul (Zachary Booth), a struggling drug and sex addict. The film takes a rare and honest look at the complications that impact on most relationships and the negative effects addiction can cause for yourself and a partner, all put together in a way that makes you not think of this as a ‘gay film’.
The film itself is based on the director Ira Sach’s own relationship with literary agent Billy Clegg, who has published a memoir discussing his own past struggles with addiction. Luring you in with a great concept, I got excited by the idea of this film and was very intrigued about how it would tackle the sex addiction aspect, as most gay themed films just tend to focus on muscly model-esque men having sex and getting naked at every given opportunity.
However this film completely avoids that and the sex scenes are both relevant to what’s happening and actually drive the plot along, and in one case shows us that sex isn’t exactly how it looks in porn or Hollywood. So a big thumbs up has to be given to them for not falling into the littered realm of cliché and mind numbing sex scenes.
The way the film is shot is also very good, as it has an almost vintage, gritty realist look to it, and for an independent film I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t look like someone had just filmed something in their back garden with a home video camera, which is often the case. In fact the film as a whole looks like Transamerica in terms of the way it was shot. The music used, when coupled with the imagery, is excellent as it really helps set the scenes and allows you to know if you’re in for a heavy moment or not.
This being said, I wasn’t completely satisfied when it came to watching this film. What Keep The Light On lacks is perhaps the most important part – the ability to get the viewer engrossed and concerned about what they are watching. As the film progressed I realised that I had little concern for the characters, which mainly stemmed from the slow moving plot.
Also I felt that if someone watched this film who hadn’t read up on it beforehand and knew what it was about, then this slow burning plot would definitely confuse them and leave them wondering what the hell was going on. However, despite not feeling for the characters, the two lead actors give quite gritty and realistic performances as lovers, so hats off to that.
Overall Verdict: Keep The Lights On has so much going for it in its premise and the music, and acting and shooting is all great. However, the slow developing plot that makes you lose interest allows the film to fall flat. They could have done so much more with this film, but they just missed the mark. But credit to them for not turning it into a gay sex and sausagefest.
Reviewer: Lewis Shepherd