SIFF, Week One: My Year Without Sex (Australia, 2009, 96 mins)

I wasn’t sure how I would react to this film.  It is, after all, about the year after a woman suffers a brain aneurism, and I watched it on the same day that my mother told me one of her friends had died recently from what was probably a brain aneurism.  She was at her own retirement party, got a massive headache, went to the bathroom with one of the women there, and collapsed.  She never regained consciousness.

On the other hand, I would have had no reaction had I missed the movie, which almost happened.  I saw it started at 9:30, but instead of thinking I needed to be there a half hour earlier, my brain decided that 9:30 is when I needed to be there.  And I realized this right after I got on the bus at 9, thinking, “Wait a minute!  If the movie starts at 9:30, then I need to pick up my ticket now.”

And then the bus had to wait for the bridge to be lowered.  And then people pulled the cord for what seemed like each stop.  I saw no line for the movie when I got to the theater, so I figured it wasn’t sold out (otherwise, rush ticket holders should still have been in line).  I walked quickly inside, got my will call ticket at the table (“I kept thinking it was a half hour later.”  “That’s okay (big smile).”), then went in the side door.  When I got to the ground floor of the theater, I noticed several empty seats.  I sat down in a good one just as one of the staff members got up on stage to introduce the film.  There’s something to be said for luck.

There’s also something to be said for this movie.  The Stranger had rated this a “Must See,” and also as the sweetest movie at the festival.  Score two for The Stranger!  This movie was also:

Poignant: When Natalie (Sacha Horler) is writing a birthday card for her daughter’s twelfth birthday.  Initially, the camera shows Natalie sitting at the desk.  Once she had read through what she’s written, the desk is shown, and we realize that she has written birthday cards for her children’s next four birthdays.

Shocking: How Natalie looks after having her aneurism.  The family’s little dog is attacked by a large dog while they are walking him.

Funny: When Natalie, who cannot hold in sneezes due to the risk of having another aneurism, runs into a darkened office to sneeze, only to find two coworkers in there, with the man’s head up the woman’s dress.  When Natalie explains why she can’t hold in sneezes, the man says he knew somebody who had an aneurism.  “She died,” he says.

True to Life: Ross is worried about layoffs at work.  Natalie goes back to work and tries to regain her faith in God.  Natalie and Ross’s daughter Ruby (Portia Bradley) loses a tooth at her birthday party.  Natalie wins $25,000 at a slot machine, but that money will only “put a dent” in the mortgage.  When Natalie is in the hospital, her husband Ross tells the kids that their mother “will be all right.”  Natalie chastises him for not telling them the truth (“Well, you are all right,” he replies.).  Later, when he mentions the dog being on life support “that we can’t afford,” their son Louis (Jonathan Segat) says to Natalie, “I thought you said he was going to be all right.”  After a pause, Ross replies, “I guess you should have been honest.”  And Margaret (Maud Davey), the lead singer of a one-hit band, now a priest at Natalie’s church, wonders what plan God has for her when she is stood up on a date.

In addition, several themes or situations are reiterated throughout the movie, and even some red herrings are used, to show us that this film is true to life, not to movies (one involves a lottery ticket, one a possible romance at work, and another a possible child molester.  In all three cases, we are conditioned to believe things will turn out a certain way, and then they turn out differently.).  One theme that comes up repeatedly in this film is parenting, and how good parenting is often a crapshoot.  For example, when Louis has the ball at the end of a rugby game and Ross tells him to pass it instead of kicking for a goal, since the other team might score on their possession and so win the game.  Afterwards, he tells his son that he should have told him to go for it, to which his son replies that, if he had, the other team would have gotten the ball back and might have had time to win the game.  Another theme occurs early in the movie, where Natalie asks Ross what his second wife would be like (if she dies).  Near the end of the film, he answers that question.

This movie is split into months, beginning in August and ending in August of the following year.  Each month is labeled with a sexual double entendre (“Foreplay” for August; “I’ve Got a Headache” for September, when Natalie is recovering from her aneurism in the hospital; and “Climax” for the final August).  Often the “clean” meaning is the one that is being referred to (“Missionary Style” introduces Margaret, and Natalie’s doubts about God; “Doggie Style” deals with their dog being attacked by the bigger dog).

The director, Sarah Watt, should be commended for making a film that feels so free and natural.  In fact, its brilliance might be overlooked because it portrays everyday life so well, which is often filled with meaningless (and meaningful) moments, trivial (and important) life lessons. Vacations where it rains all day.  Parents being interrupted by their kids while having sex.  Not being able to find condoms in the nightstand.  The dad chomping and spitting out carrots to make it look like Santa’s reindeer have eaten them.  Last minute Easter bunny shopping, when all the good candy has been bought already.  And, of course, all of the sexual temptations that exist in the world, and how much of it is sold to us consumers on a daily basis.

This is the most delightful film I’ve seen since 500 Days of Summer, and one of the easiest films of the festival to rate.  5 out of 5.  Or, as the toe-tapping end credits song puts it:

You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful to me.

Note: The version of the song above is different from the actual song that runs during the end credits.  During the end credits version, the cast joins in on the song.


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