Monday, December 13, 2010

My Year Without Sex

Directed by Sarah Watt.
2009. Not Rated, 96 minutes.
Sacha Horler
Matt Day
Jonathan Segat
Portia Bradley
Maude Davey
Sonya Suares
Roy Davies
Eddie Baroo
Chloe Guymer

Natalie (Horler) and Ross (Day) are your typical middle class married Australian couple with a pair of kids, a boy and girl. We meet them one morning in May when the children walk in on them while they’re starting the day off right. Due to the movie’s title, this is presumably the last time they get it on for quite a while, but why? Well, shortly after this little rendezvous, Natalie suffers a near-fatal aneurysm and spends a few weeks in the hospital. Her doctor informs our lovebirds that orgasms are one of the things that might trigger a reoccurrence. So, they abstain while she recovers physically and they both do some psychological healing.

Okay, I’ve gotta stop right there. To paraphrase the late Malcolm X, I’ve been bamboozled, led astray. I didn’t land on My Year Without Sex, My Year Without Sex landed on me. As the movie plays I do something I try not to do while watching a film, start reading the back of the DVD cover. Yup, there it is. Right there, it tells me how great a romantic comedy this is. Romantic? Maybe, eventually. Comedy? It’s nothing of the sort.

Natalie’s recovery puts a serious strain on her marriage. Her union with Ross is stretched very near the point of breaking. Likewise, for this movie’s sense of humor. That’s because all of this is rendered in painful detail. How painful depends on the viewer. MYWS is far more depressing than any movie willing to call itself a rom-com should be.

There are some comic moments. Most of them revolve around how oblivious the children seem as their lives continue without missing a beat. Other humor comes in the form of point-blank sex talk by Natalie’s sister who is half of the only other couple our heroes spend any time with. This threatens to bring it to the level of dramedy, but doesn’t quite do the trick.

How is it for what it is? It moves along nicely, helped by placards that mark the passing of the months. Each has clever titles like “I Have a Headache” or “Missionary Position.” The performances are excellent throughout, particularly Horler as Natalie. She is outstanding. Together with Day as her husband, they feel like a genuine couple. However, it’s still a downer, making it a struggle to wade through.

It’s also rather heavy-handed with its atheism. Just as other movies can be overbearing with their religious messages, this is as much with it’s antithetical stand. Through a female priest, Margaret (Davey), the movie repeatedly questions any notions of God. It uses her as an example that’s intended to disprove the existence of a superior being. The ending is also one last thorn in the paw of the lion know as organized religion. The biggest problem with all this is it doesn’t sufficiently support its own argument. It would seem that the movie subscribes to the idea of science in favor of the hocus-pocus of religion, but never fully enables the doctors as it needs to to solidify its point.

Despite what some would say, there can be good movies with an atheist slant. The Invention of Lying is one. That movie doesn’t dwell on it for an hour and it’s actually funny. This is like a sledgehammer to the base of the skull. There’s no punchline to soothe us, just repetitive blunt force. The rest of the ride is well done, but less than enjoyable.

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