★★ Directed by Christian Belz Parenteau Starring Simon Boisvert, Jillian Harris, & Isabelle Moreau Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
As the title might suggest, this indie film concerns itself with the enduring theme of relationships. Its central character Mark (Simon Boisvert) finds himself early on in the movie being dumped by his twenty-something girlfriend Stephanie (Jillian Harris), who believes their 20-year age gap will prevent them from having a truly happy relationship. Fortunately Mark recently ran into his old flame Julie (Izabelle Moreau) whom he admits to being the yardstick to which all his girlfriends since have been measured against. An essay to the foibles of human relationships, Christian Belz Parenteau's film, written by Boisvert, concerns itself heavily with its characters. The scenes are dialogue-heavy and fearless when it comes to revealing the weighty emotions of Mark, Stephanie, and Julie. Every conversation is laden with existential wonderings about the nature of monogamy, the effects it has on its players, and the life paths which become determined by those we share our lives with. There is also a considerable amount of self-examination going on, allowing a mild connection to be made between these relatable characters and the audience. Unfortunately, aside from a few nice moments of intimacy and a couple of small chuckles, Love or Lust is pretty turgid. Not a lot really happens, and the endless chatter about being in couples becomes like white noise over countless dinner table sequences and picturesque walks. The whole film has a soap opera feel to it but without any of the melodrama, instead basking in the reverie of middle-aged whimsy. Only the hint of a crippling insecurity within Mark ramps up any kind of tension, which by the end becomes the central theme but is poorly executed. The performances are mostly unremarkable, as wooden as the tables present in almost every scene! Boisvert plays a character who admits to having no “style”, and is therefore a poorly chosen anchor for a film. It is a shame Harris is absent from the main body of the film, as she delivers easily the best turns of the movie. The most enjoyable moments of Love and Lust are where Mark and Stephanie have a bit of banter about the different attitudes towards relationships between their age groups, but this soon gives way to a hefty slice of nausea-inducing pillow talk between Mark and Julie, who discuss (in extensive detail) the marvellousness of their original relationship whilst becoming increasingly paranoid about their existing one. Considering the scope of the characters, which it has to be said are given tremendous attention to detail, it seems a shame a more interesting plot was not offered.
Nothing in the filmmaking really stood out as being particularly innovative or daring. A few nice landscape shots punctuated the movie, but the film never really moved away from the character dialogue enough to be creative. The score was also particularly irksome, offering up shallow accompaniment to the scenes with distracting notes and bulky melodies that just didn’t sit well.
Fans of classic romance films may be able to find some enjoyment from the characters which are well sculpted, but Love and Lust is nowhere near as exciting as the title suggests. It is a clunky, self-aggrandising love letter to the complexities of relationships from the perspective of middle-aged men.