Even Lovers Get The Blues ***
Starring: Marie Denys, Tristan Schotte, Adriana Da Fonseca, Gabriel Da Costa, Séverine Porzo, Arnaud Bronsart
Director: Laurent Micheli
Fidelity, group sex, open and/or polyamorous relationships are contentious issues at best. Despite the Free Love Movement of the 1960s, the idea of sharing your life and bed with multiple partners is something that is yet to catch on with the wider public. If anything, free love has been heteronormatised now to the point that the checklist of sexual behaviours that were fought for fifty years ago have been cherry-picked, with the winners celebrated as the pinnacle of modern liberality, while the losers are suborned as much, if not more so, than before. And all of the above did not make the list.
Even Lovers Get The Blues is a Belgian film that follows a group of friends who engage in all of the above. Ana (Denys) is left bereft after her boyfriend dies of a heart attack after they have had sex. In an attempt to try and recover from her grief, she begins to engage in sex with strangers; essentially, anyone who will show her an interest. Elsewhere, Ana’s friends are all engaged in complex sexual relationships. Graciano (Da Costa) is in a relationship with Dalhia (Da Fonseca), but when he finds himself having sex with Arthur (Schotte), a friend sleeping on their sofa, he has to try and define both his sexuality and his feelings for both of his lovers. Louis (Bronsart) wants a baby but his girlfriend Léo (Porzio) does not, so the two of them try to work out how their relationship can move on from this complicated stalemate.
At both the beginning and the end of the film, the factor that unites the group is their solidarity for Ana and her loss. Away from this, each of the storylines tangentially meander by themselves, only coming together in the film’s climax, when the group all go camping together. This “it’s ALL going to kick off when the gang go on holiday together” narrative device is something that has been done so many times before that it seems somewhat lazy to throw this in now, especially when the writer has already established a common device for when and how the stories could be united elsewhere. That’s not to say that the pressure cooker scenes on the campsite don’t make for intense viewing, but with the first half of the film feeling both modern and progressive, to fall back on a tired trope is somewhat disappointing.
From the outset, the sexual values of its characters (and filmmaker) are clearly different from the accepted norm. This is no-holds-barred cinema, with cock and minge a-plenty, in which characters are open about the fluidity of their feelings for each other. Just as in Shortbus, it would be a real shame for a film about sexuality to shy away from depicting its subject; as a result, we see the full range of human sexuality without any bashful reticence. The fact that the majority of the film’s nodal points occur within these sex scenes also gives great weight to the importance of sexuality, showing how it brings out both the best and the worst in its characters.
As a series of sexual vignettes, this film works. But as a whole, this doesn’t equate well as a sum of its parts. The overall narrative is muddy, with some of the characters lacking in depth and the whole film relying too much on its “look how liberal we are” mantra without considering the clarity of its message. As a depiction of sexual fluidity and polyamoury it succeeds, but as it aspires to be more than just that, it doesn’t quite get to the finish line.