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Keep the Lights On (2011)

tomatometer

90

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 61
Fresh: 55 | Rotten: 6

Keep the Lights On is a mysterious, sexy journey deep into the love affair of two men that always manages to stay true to life.

89

Average Rating: 8/10
Critic Reviews: 27
Fresh: 24 | Rotten: 3

Keep the Lights On is a mysterious, sexy journey deep into the love affair of two men that always manages to stay true to life.

audience

62

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 2,747

My Rating

Movie Info

It's 1997 and New York City is in a state of intense flux when documentary filmmaker Erik Rothman (Thure Lindhardt) first meets Paul Lucy (Zachary Booth), a handsome but closeted lawyer in the publishing field. What begins as a highly charged first encounter soon becomes something much more, and a relationship quickly develops. As the two men start building a home and life together, each continues to privately battle their own compulsions and addictions. A film about sex, friendship, intimacy

Unrated,

Drama, Gay & Lesbian

Jan 22, 2013

$0.2M

Music Box Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (62) | Top Critics (27) | Fresh (55) | Rotten (6)

This is a painful drama, but its pain is more studied than emotive, and it demands that we think just as much as it makes us feel.

October 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The cast, uniformly excellent, draws us into a vibrant, energetic Manhattan where commitments are forged and broken through sheer chance and those seeking permanence must continually resist temptation and ennui.

October 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A complex and mysterious tale of a love affair, one that lacks the tidy story arc of a movie but feels real.

October 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

When you summon memories of this film, they are almost always of two men in a room, in a default state of discontent.

October 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A heart-breaking love story and call for emotional transparency in relationships.

October 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The performances are first-rate, with Lindhardt particularly moving as a guy who's in deep denial about just how much he can expect from a relationship with an addict.

October 11, 2012 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Keep the Lights On acknowledges (without belaboring) the performative nature of identity; how each of our claims to selfhood, be it sexual, romantic, or professional, are staged on a shifting terrain of habit, fantasy, and desire.

August 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

The best film of 2012...Perfect.

January 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Rage Monthly
Rage Monthly

Small in frame but large in heart.

January 9, 2013 Full Review Source: Willamette Week
Willamette Week

Sachs captures Erik's yearning for Paul and Paul's addiction-induced indifference with equal force.

November 15, 2012 Full Review Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

An intimate, honest and uncompromising study of the need for love and the addictions to drugs, sex and intense emotion that may accompany -- and sabotage -- love's pursuit.

November 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

A brutally honest, at times embarrassingly raw, attempt to capture a modern day, urban relationship...bittersweet and filled with memorable details, a huge leap forward for [director] Sachs.

November 11, 2012 Full Review Source: Knight at the Movies
Knight at the Movies

It feels as if we're being given glimpses into real lives unfolding.

November 4, 2012 Full Review Source: Scotsman

There's a lot to like here, and if you're a traditionalist who hungers for a happy ending, you'll find it embedded in the opening credits.

November 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Director-cowriter Sachs takes an unusually intimate look at a 10-year relationship in this beautifully shot and performed New York drama.

November 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Contactmusic.com
Contactmusic.com

A tenderly observed portrait of a man aching for romance even as he resists the idea of full commitment.

November 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

Every frame pulses with hard-gained experience: it may be the most lived-in film of 2012, and certainly counts among the most moving.

November 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

Monitoring the peaks and troughs of this fractious relationship is more fascinating than enjoyable.

November 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

A visually arresting and wholly compelling drama, thanks to its gorgeously warm cinematography, pleasing soundtrack and impressive and convincing performances from its two male leads.

October 31, 2012 Full Review Source: ViewLondon
ViewLondon

Feels lopsided in its focus on Erik, with Paul remaining a strangely remote object of the former's romantic devotion.

October 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

While not quite on a par with Andrew Haigh's Weekend, this is still an undeniably powerful piece of filmmaking.

October 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It is a film in which we see snapshots of a long-term love affair that seems doomed from the start. The raw truth of much of it is strong enough to make the sometimes frustrating structure forgivable.

October 26, 2012 Full Review Source: HollywoodChicago.com
HollywoodChicago.com

It all has the feel of a pretentious film student desperately trying to make a statement with his thesis film. It's extremely overwrought with laughable melodrama.

October 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Sin Magazine
Sin Magazine

Audience Reviews for Keep the Lights On

Mind numbingly dull.
July 23, 2013
jjnxn
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

Think of "Keep the Lights On" as a companion piece to last year's wondrous little film "Weekend" (which was on my Top 10 list of 2011). Gay men, who have played a major role in creating and developing cinema, are FINALLY turning their cinematic attention to gay relationships. It only took 100 years. And we're not talking about superficial melodrama or soft-core porn. There's no beefcake in either one of these films.

These are also not coming-out stories. This is thoughtful, subtle, realistic reflection on the dynamics of adult gay relationships. Boyfriends. Whereas "Weekend" examined a brief affair with the potential to grow into a long-term relationship, "Lights" depicts a long-term relationship -- with many ups and downs. But not for a second is it melodrama.

Writer/director Ira Sachs, who made his first feature film, "The Delta," about 15 years ago (which I haven't seen), brings to life the story of two well-educated Manhattanites who have an anonymous sexual encounter that grows into a 10-year relationship. One is a documentary filmmaker; presumably this at least to some degree represents Sachs himself. The other is a literary agent and book editor.

Thure Lindhart, a Danish-born actor, plays the filmmaker. Lindhart took my breath away two years ago in the Danish film "Brotherhood," which was on my Top 10 List of 2010. It's fantastic to see him breaking into American cinema. I guess I wasn't the only American who noticed "Brotherhood." Zachary Booth plays the literary agent. Booth is perhaps most recognizable as Glenn Close's son in the brilliant TV show "Damages."

After a few years of relative happiness, the relationship runs into serious difficulty when the literary agent drifts into drug abuse. The film doesn't slip down the rabbit hole of lurid drug voyeurism. We don't go along with this man on his weekend-long drug binges. The film is mostly concerned with the emotional wreckage that results after the binge is over. We see the aftermath, not the drug binge.

There's only one scene that depicts one of the binges. And here again, the focus is not on the binge itself so much as the emotional responses of the sober boyfriend who witnesses it. The film also nicely explores the ways that the filmmaker gets emotional support from his diverse circle of family and friends.

But unfortunately the analysis in "Lights" never cuts that deep. It's thoughtful but only in a sketchy way. It hints at ideas more than explores them. The film also is not edited that well and starts to feel repetitious after a while. There's no denying, however, that "Keep the Lights On" is one of the better films of 2012 and a wonderful addition to what will hopefully grow into a sub-genre of serious gay cinema.
October 13, 2012
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

In "Keep the Lights On," Karen(Paprika Steen) gives her brother Erik(Thure Lindhardt), a documentary filmmakerin his 30's, grief over not being able to put his life together. That's even with her not knowing about his phone sex habit which is how he hooks up with Paul(Zachary Booth) who mentions something about a girlfriend after they have sex. That does not stop them from forming a relationship that goes beyond the physical, however. Meantime, Erik's friend Claire(Julianne Nicholson) wants to have his baby while he sweats out an HIV test.

"Keep the Lights On" is a quietly intense and incisive look at a turbulent relationship. As erotic as the movie is, there is one sex scene that has to be one of the most emotionally unnerving I have ever seen. That having been said, the movie has less to do with sex than with addiction and those it affects. Ironically, Erik is an anchor for Paul, otherwise clean cut with a good job compared to Erik who has never been big on responsibility. Throughout, Erik gets glimpses of other potential realities, one of which would be a huge mistake to say the least. Along these same lines, the movie's central weakness is telling it entirely from Erik's point of view which, while building suspense concerning Paul's whereabouts, limits the story in not properly giving Paul adequate definition.
November 9, 2012
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

If Ira Sachs has a thesis for his film, its that most people form relationships on as many lies as truths and even if that relationship seems right for the moment . . . it can also be so wrong. The intensely personal nature of the film suggests that Sachs had to reopen some painful old wounds to tell this story.
October 29, 2012
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

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