There is nothing about Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On” that Andrew Haigh’s superb “Weekend,” another drama about a same-sex relationships, has not done with far more grace and skill. Sure, you could say that Sachs’ film spans many years and thus deserves to be judged differently, but the byproducts of both movies are incredibly similar.
The portrayal of homosexuals is far superior in “Weekend,” which defines the two men by their fears, their misgivings, their hopes, and their humanity. ”Keep the Lights On” abandons true characterization in favor of stereotypes and archetypes. Paul (Zachary Booth), a gay lawyer at first living in denial, at least has some complexity, but he’s still most defined by his drug use and infidelity. Erik (Thure Lindhardt) is a whiny, grating character who seems to be motivated only by his insatiable desire for sex.
Haigh’s film is also far superior at analyzing society and deconstructing what it really means to have a relationship. Sachs has his couple practically operating in a vacuum. ”Keep the Lights On,” beyond just the story, is also a far inferior film aesthetically. It plods along at a dismally slow pace and the filmmaking brings very little exciting to the table.
I could extol the authenticity of “Weekend” here, but I’ll refrain since I’ve already written a review of that film. And while you might say that I’ve hardly reviewed “Keep the Lights On,” I see no reason to dedicate any more of my time and thoughts to a movie that has been done before and has been done better. No, IFC did not pay me to advertise “Weekend” with this post, but if you feel compelled to seek it out now … it’s on Netflix Instant Streaming, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and just about any streaming service out there as of this posting. C- /