A dramatized account of writer-director Ira Sachs' turbulent, on-again, off-again love affair with literary agent Bill Clegg, Keep the Lights On is small in frame but large in heart. That it's so personal a work occasionally shines through in negative ways—Sachs’ shifts in time and episodic structure are not just plot developments but also disjointed memories. This personal quality also contributes to its authenticity as a sort of fictionalized memoir. (Ditto its grainy, lo-fi aesthetic.) Ultimately, the two leads' homosexuality is less important to the narrative (unlike in Brokeback Mountain, for example) than the fact that one is a drug addict whose struggle is as debilitating to his partner as it is to himself. The heart wants what it wants, of course, and so we look on in a mix of sympathy and confusion as the two keep fighting to save their relationship even as they unknowingly self-destruct. Sachs does a great deal within the relatively small scope of this film, but he’s most effective when he puts us in the position of a mutual friend who knows it's best for the couple to move on.
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- Release Date: Monday, November 5, 2012
- Critic's Score: B-
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