DVD Review: My Year Without Sex (2009)

18 Nov

[Kirsten Law, a fantastic writer and also reasonably tolerable person*, sent me this review of the DVD package of My Year Without Sax about 2 weeks ago. Just putting it up today – that’s how fast i’m doing things. I’ve been too busy learning wind instruments. Oh and we previously reviewed this when it was on at the cinemas]. *or is it the other way round?

“I was interested in how we get through our days and whether they are any better or worse for having been examined. About whether our perception of control – or lack of it – makes any difference to our actual control. I was interested in whether we earn our good or bad luck, or whether it’s random. We’ve been told for many years that we earn it, and if we earn it, then we deserve everything, from luxury cars, and upgrades of everything, to complete and constant happiness.” Director’s Statement.

Sarah Watt’s My Year Without Sex subtly explores what it means to be ‘good’. Addressing the inherent problems of nuclear family life, the central narrative event is Natalie (Sacha Horler)’s aneurism. Banned from orgasming lest her brain explode, Natalie and her husband, Ross (Matt Day), take a right hook to their once-active sex life.

What unfolds over the following year is a tragi-comic chain of events that includes the near-death of the family dog, a $25,000 pokies win and a predatory older male propositioning the couple’s son, Louis. Ruby, Natalie and Ross’s daughter, is an 8-year-old ingénue, obsessed with fashion and the spoils of her increasingly gappy gums. Natalie’s friend Margaret (Maude Davey of Summer Heights High fame) is a lovelorn Anglican priest with a drug-addled history. The characters, particularly Ruby and Margaret, are exciting and well-drawn. Watt has a gift for a heightening that adds pith to her adeptly realised narratives.

In the DVD’s accompanying behind-the-scenes documentary, Watt says the film expresses an ‘anti-redemptive’ stance: that beating ourselves up for inconsistent displays of ‘goodness’ is a futile exercise. Far from being a sleight on humanity, Sex celebrates the sufficiency of our mere humanness.

As Matt Day acknowledges, it is Watt’s attention-to-detail that makes the film – there’s some brilliant dialogue and design. The interior of Ross and Natalie’s home is charming: there’s a swear jar and a gallery of colourful children’s artwork.

Perhaps the result of Watt’s background in animation, the film contains some distracting graphics – inter-titles, like chapters, at the beginning of each ‘month’ that the narrative covers. Though these have amusing titles like ‘Doggy Style’ and ‘Missionary Position’, they make the film unnecessarily kitschy. It’s not a masterpiece and, through moments of laughter and tears, the ultimate feeling is one of quiet contemplation instead of enticement to transform. It’s a cute and clever film and better than most recent local – and several recent international – offerings nonetheless.

STOP PRESS! THE DVD INCLUDES A BONUS ATOM STUDY GUIDE CD-ROM. OH, YEAH.

—> Interview with actor Sacha Horler {Here}

—> Interview with Matt Day and director Sarah Watt {Here}

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