Intimacy

The title comes from a novella by Hanif Kureishi, but the basic premise of French director Patrice Chereau's powerfully acted, intensely carnal drama is lifted from "Nightlight," one of Kureishi's short stories. Every Wednesday afternoon, a woman (Kerry Fox) arrives at a dismal, barely furnished flat in an unappealing section of London for no other reason...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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The title comes from a novella by Hanif Kureishi, but the basic premise of French director Patrice Chereau's powerfully acted, intensely carnal drama is lifted from "Nightlight," one of Kureishi's short stories. Every Wednesday afternoon, a woman (Kerry Fox) arrives at a dismal, barely furnished flat in an unappealing section of London for no other reason than to have sex with the man who lives there (Mark Rylance). They claw at their clothes, make love on the floor and part company as soon as it's over. Few words are spoken and they don't know each other's names. It's an unconventional arrangement, but it's really no different from the situation other new lovers find themselves in when, for a brief period time, each is a blank slate for the other and expectations are at a bare minimum. Only these lovers have found a way of extending that period indefinitely. Jay, the head barman at busy club, has had enough of emotional entanglements and contemptuous familiarity; a few years earlier, he packed a small bag and simply walked out on his marriage (a cold, unhappy affair we see in brief flashbacks), leaving his wife (Susannah Harker) to raise their two young sons alone. But when his mystery woman fails to show one particular Wednesday, Jay is crushed, realizing that his attachment to this stranger runs deeper than he at first thought; what he needs from her is something more intimate than physical contact alone can afford. While appearing to honor their unspoken agreement, Jay follows her home. What he discovers shocks him, even though it shouldn't: She's married with a kid. The film is surprisingly obvious in its dissection of sex, desire and intimacy, but both Rylance and Fox easily transcend the material; their sublime performances transform their characters' tendency toward self-pity into a far more primal suffering. The supporting cast is also superb, particularly New Zealand cult musician Alastair Galbraith as Jay's junkie friend Victor, Timothy Spall (fresh off ROCK STAR, of all things) as the cuckolded husband and Marianne Faithfull as a loopy amateur actress. Less successful is the character of Ian (Philippe Calvario), a gay French bartender who speaks in aphorisms and appears to have simply memorized Kureishi's prose. For a mainstream film, the sex is surprisingly raw and explicit, but manages to say more about desolation, longing and loneliness than lust or love.

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