(director/writer/editor: Adina Pintilie; cinematographer: George Chiper-Lillemark; music: Einsturzende Neubauten, Ivo Paunov; cast: Laura Benson (Laura), Tomas Lemarquis (Tomas), Christian Bayerlein (Christian), Grit Uhlemann (Grit), Adina Pintilie (Adina), Hanna Hofmann (Hanna/transsexual), Seani Love (Seani), Irmena Chichikova (Mona), Rainer Steffen (Stefan), Georgi Naldzhev (Male Escort), Dirk Lange (Radu), Annett Sawallisch (Nurse); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Bianca Oana, Philippe Avril, Adina Pintilie; Kino Lorber; 2018-France-in French with English subtitles)

Awkward execution.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Romanian film-maker Adina Pintilie’s first feature is a boring experimental drama that explores the emotional trips of its three protagonists, who are struggling to become liberated and have better sex. It won in 2018 the Berlin Festival’s Golden Bear award. Its awkward execution, with too many interjections by the director, makes it look much like a documentary that could have been better fictionalized. It’s a film with a limited appeal, probably even in the arthouse scene. One of those followed is the 50-something Englishwoman Laura (Laura Benson, stage actress). She is interviewed by Pintilie on a monitor as she observes hospital touch therapy sessions. Laura is trying to overcome her fear of being touched by being more open-minded and more tuned into sex. The other two followed are non-actors with disabilities. Christian Bayerlein has an advanced spinal atrophy condition, who participates in these hospital therapy sessions. He has an able-bodied girlfriend Grit (Grit Uhlemann). Christian’s therapy partner is Tómas Lemarquis, a man with alopecia who feels cut off from the world. At one point Christian blurts out: “I love my penis because it’s the only part of my body that functions normally.” That, for me, was the most memorable thing in the film. Laura meets with a trans sex worker named Hannah Hofmann, who at the age of 50 has a strong sense of who she is and offers comfort to Laura. Laura also has meetings with a male escort named Seani Love, her other sexual therapy worker with a more direct and physically confrontational method than Hanna’s. He specializes in something called “conscious kink.” Things become tiresome as they repeatedly rotate around the same three settings and continue to make the same points about how one should not be fearful of intimacy. In this lengthy film we observe too many white rooms and can feel down taking in all the repression scenes in the patients. Though provocative, the sexual discovery film is humorless and cold. In all its seriousness and attempts to be convincing, it never touched my heart.