Keep the Lights On (4 stars)

Keep the Lights On

A thoughtful, tender film that recalls Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Keep the Lights On is personal in a way that harks backs to American independent cinema of an earlier era. Director Ira Sachs has transformed moments from his own life into a thoughtful, tender film that brings to mind the melodramas of Douglas Sirk and the tortured tales of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Sachs himself claims Bill Sherwood's Parting Glances (1986) as one of his key influences.

Love is a blessing and a curse in this melancholy remembrance of a romance that unfolds in New York through the late 1990s and into the new century. Thure Lindhardt (Flame And Citron) has the look of a young, louche Rutger Hauer in the role of Erik, a Danish filmmaker in New York whose life changes when he meets closeted lawyer Paul (Zachary Booth). Casual sex leads to something more meaningful despite Paul's warning: ‘I have a girlfriend so don’t get your hopes up.’ Their passionate relationship is marked by joy and happiness, heartbreak and humiliation. It is also increasingly defined by Paul's drug addiction. There is a real masochism in Erik's refusal to give up on the relationship especially when the Paul we see remains mysterious and not especially sympathetic. 

It is a film about the failings and flaws that both men are trying to overcome although Erik's struggle towards emotional maturity is more compelling than the ebb and flow of this defining relationship. It may be deliberate but Sachs refrains from creating much sense of time passing so that the events could be happening over the course of a few months rather than over a matter of years. The film is further weakened by being so one-sided but amidst the miserablism and self-absorption there are scenes that have the sting of truth. Lindhardt provides the emotional core of the film and is very persuasive as a man aching for romance even as he resists commitment. 

Selected release from Fri 2 Nov.

Keep The Lights On Movie Trailer (2012)

Keep the Lights On

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Ira Sachs
  • Cast: Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth, Julianne Nicholson
  • UK release: 2 November 2012

Erik (Lindhardt) is a Danish filmmaker in New York whose life changes when he meets closeted lawyer Paul (Booth). Thoughtful, tender film, reminiscent of Sirk or Fassbinder; perhaps too one-sided and self-absorbed, but Lindhardt is very persuasive as a man aching for romance but resisting commitment.