Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On” starts with a credit montage of bad paintings. The fact that they’re all homoerotic in content has nothing to do with their quality, which is amateurish.
His protagonist, Erik (Thure Lindhardt), is first seen cruising gay-sex phone chatlines looking for company. He finds it, has sex and then goes about his business. But he’s a regular on the phone, describing himself to prospective partners as masculine and well-built (he’s actually a little soft-looking, though not overweight).
We gradually learn that, aside from seeking regular hook-ups, Erik is a Danish émigré and a would-be filmmaker, living in New York, apparently on the generosity of his parents (according to his disapproving sister, played by Paprika Steen). He’s been working on a documentary for a couple of years about Avery Willard, a gay pioneer of the 1950s’ New York film scene, and has turned down the chance to work for PBS because it would be too boring.
Then he meets Paul (Zachary Booth) and falls – hard. He not only lures Paul away from a girlfriend – he winds up moving in with him. Paul seems like a stable, well-adjusted partner, an attorney with a solid job. Just one small problem: He occasionally smokes crack.
Occasionally, however, turns into what it always turns into: full-blown addiction, with all of the side dishes that go with it – disappearances, unreliability, lying, even theft. Suddenly Erik finds himself as the responsible one in a relationship where one of the partners is regularly on the conveyor belt to rehab.
That’s an interesting take on a love-vs.-addiction story, though not interesting enough to sustain “Keep the Lights On.”
This review continues on my website.