Keep the Lights On (18)


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The Independent Culture

Ira Sachs's portrait of a faltering gay romance is absorbing and beautifully made, but in the end rather maddening. It centres on Erik (Thure Lindhardt), a Danish documentarist resident in New York, who meets high-flying lawyer Paul (Zachary Booth) via a phone-sex chatline.

Despite the latter having a girlfriend, the two men start a relationship which the film charts in episodes between 1998 and 2006. Sex isn't a problem, nor is money (we learn that Erik is subsidised by a wealthy family); what portends doom is Paul's consuming (and surprising) addiction to crack.

Sachs has much invested in this partly autobiographical tale, and the blond, gap-toothed Lindhardt is very touching as his needy alter ego. Paul, however, remains closed and elusive, as much of a cipher as the avant-garde artist who's the subject of Erik's long-in-the-making documentary.

In individual scenes Sachs works wonders – an early exchange between Erik and his prickly sister (Paprika Steen) is amusingly feline – and there's strong support from Julianne Nicholson as Erik's troubled best friend.

But the narrative, swirling around personal irresolution and flakiness, hasn't quite the impetus required in the absence of a plot.