Review by Mark Schwab
November 20th, 2016
Relationships are a universal experience for human beings. Even if they aren't romantic ones. When we interact with our fellow humans it is usually some form of quid pro quo or exchange whether it is buying something, selling something or just the simple act of not wanting to be alone. Add romantic feelings on top of all that and things can get complicated quickly. What is it that we really want out of our romantic entanglements? This is the question posed in the independent film LOVE OR LUST.
Simon Boisvert stars as Mark - a guy pushing fifty who hasn't had too much luck with women. When the story opens, he is in a 'by-the-numbers 7-year relationship with Stephanie (Jillian Harris) - a girl nearly twenty years younger than him and at the end of her patience with the distant and boring Mark. They head out into the country for a little getaway and Steph ends the relationship about 15 minutes after arriving at the secluded cabin and leaves (you'd think she would have broken this off before a long trip into the country just for efficiency sake). Left to his own thoughts (helpfully provided in voiceover), Mark reconnects with an old girlfriend he dated 25 years ago (Izabelle Moreau) to try and spark something up again but realizes old habits die hard.
LOVE OR LUST struggles right out of the gate though when we first establish Mark and Stephanie. The two characters speak to each other as if it was the first time they met, giving pages of exposition describing themselves and their relationship that they would have already said to each other years before - as a 7-year couple, they weren't believable at all. When Mark reconnects with Julie (Moreau), I could buy into their chemistry much easier.
The screenplay (by lead actor Boisvert) is very very dialogue-heavy...the characters are talking non-stop so the audience never gets a chance to breathe and absorb into the characters. It wouldn't be a huge problem except for the fact that the performances are mostly one-note. No matter what the scene calls for - romance, drama, anger - Boisvert and Harris play it the same with Boisvert giving us a kind of bemused grin and Harris being monotone. There is no shading at all to their characters.
When Izabelle Moreau enters the fray as the old girlfriend, she stands out in stark contrast. She's charming and brings a nice mature sensibility to the proceedings. It's a well-written character but Moreau does her job a little too well, making the other characters feel shallow and stiff.
Production-wise, LOVE OR LUST is gorgeous and lush with its Quebec locations almost literally sparkling on screen. There is also a fine sound mix - which I'm sure they knew was critical with the constant dialogue throughout the film. But director Christian Belz Parenteau's lack of direction opts for basic framing of the characters in different locations while they have conversations. He never puts his personal stamp on this as a storyteller - he just rolls the camera and records the dialogue. It makes you feel as if this would work much better as a play than a movie.
The conclusion here is actually interesting and unpredictable with the last 10 minutes or so being the best part of the film writing and acting-wise. A strong finish can leave a good impression but I'll leave it to you if sifting through all the talk is worth the insight gained.