The Belgian film Even Lovers Gets The Blues follows a group of friends in the aftermath of the death of one of their number. After a night of fun and passion for all of them, Hugo keels over and dies while his girlfriend, Ana, is taking a post-sex shower.
This potent reminder of mortality has a profound effect on all of them. Ana is left reeling from the death of her lover, and tries to fill the gap in her life and deal with her grief by sleeping with a variety of men. Louis seems to wants his girlfriend, Leo, to have a baby, but she seems unsure and both have difficulty communicating about it. Dahlia and Graciano meanwhile have issues with their sex life, as Graciano is finding it difficult to stay aroused and his attempts to bring intimacy back to their relationship fail. Things change one drunken and drugged up night when he sleeps with their promiscuous gay friend, Arthur.
Things come to a head several months later, when the friends decide to take a summer camping trip to a lake.
Even Lovers Gets The Blues is the sort of film that could easily have come across as too mannered, internal and pleased with itself. However, its self-consciously arty edge is tempered by a genuine interest in its characters. Likewise its quirks – such as a scene where it essentially turns into a musical and several of the characters break into song – could have been intensely annoying, but there’s something oddly intriguing about how it’s done.
What helps it stay the right side of pretentiousness is good acting and a thoughtful look at a group of people suddenly faced with mortality in a way they never had to deal with before. This is a group used to just being able to treat life in a carefree, rather hedonistic way, where decisions can always be put off until the future. Now though, they find themselves needing to make choices and work out what they want from life. However, they aren’t well equipped for this, with the film suggesting there’s a generation of people in their early 30s, whose lack of life skills are likely to cause problems.
That leads to an interesting but potentially problematic journey for Graciano, after he starts cheating on his girlfriend with a guy. Ana knows, although initially acts like she doesn’t, leaving both her and Arthur in a kind of limbo. It’s an interesting setup and allows the film to make an intriguing push towards the possibility of polyamory. However, some may feel there are moments when it plays into the stereotype of bisexual people being greedy, indecisive or selfish. Some may also take issue with the idea that if you can’t get it up with your girlfriend, your problems would be solved by cheating on her with a guy.
However, if you can overlook that, it’s an unusual and relatively rare depiction of bisexuality that takes the subject seriously and shows empathy for all involved. Indeed, it is empathy that’s the film’s greatest strength, as all the characters are flawed and at times unlikeable. Even Lovers Gets The Blues cares about them though. It genuinely wants to know why they do what they do, and that’s whether they are being their own worst enemy – as Ana sometimes is in her grief – or finding it difficult to communicate effectively.
It’s also a movie that has a few very explicit moments, including erections and women giving men blowjobs. This could have seemed gratuitous, but here it almost seems necessary. One of the key themes of the movie is looking at what sex means, whether it’s trying to fill an emotional hole, as a way of bonding, a way of avoiding dealing with issues, or indeed a way of dealing with problems in a rather passive aggressive way. By being relatively frank – although not overly so – it allows the movie to look at this without seeming like it’s being coy or afraid of showing what it needs to know. That’s not to say it’s a hardcore sex-fest, just that at key moments it isn’t as shy as most films would be.
Overall Verdict: An intriguing and thought-provoking look at a group of friends going through an early midlife crisis, which takes a frank look at sex and sexuality.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac