Scenes of a Sexual Nature - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making Of documentary; Director and writer commentary; Bafta nominated short film by the director – The Last Post; Theatrical trailer.
DON’T let the name mislead you, this isn’t another sex romp to rival the tawdry likes of Nine Songs but rather an adventurous look at relationships as played out by seven couples on Hampstead Heath one sunny afternoon.
Written by Aschlin Ditta (TV’s No Angels) and directed by newcomer Ed Blum, the film is notable for having attracted a top-notch British cast despite being filmed in weeks at a cost of under £500,000.
Sadly, the impressive amount of work that went into getting it made and attracting such a showy cast isn’t always mirrored by what unfolds on-screen. There are times when the screenplay struggles to escape its sense of theatricality and not every one of the stories convinces as it should.
In fact, there are times when it becomes a little too trite, self-congratulatory and self-important.
Of the relationships under the spotlight, it’s undoubtedly Ewan McGregor and Douglas Hodge’s gay couple who will attract the most attention – and their reflections on fidelity and gay male adoption are certainly capable of provoking some serious debate.
But as intriguing as this central conceit is, the characters – and Ewan in particular – fail to engage on an emotional level and merely come across as annoying (especially in light of Ewan’s roving eye).
Hopeless romantics are far more likely to root for blind daters Hugh Bonneville and Gina McKee as they fumble their way through a picnic, or Eileen Aitkins’ and Benjamin Whitrow’s pair of reunited old dears – even though aspects of both relationships fail to ring true.
And fans of Andrew Lincoln may derive some pleasure from seeing him caught by his girlfriend ogling a scantily-clad sunbather. There’s also plenty of intrigue surrounding businessman Mark Strong’s encounter with Polly Walker’s mysterious woman – even if the course of both these stories threatens to strain credibility.
Most disappointing, however, is how Sophie Okonedo is utterly wasted as a woman who finds herself harassed by a pest (Tom Hardy) moments after splitting from her boyfriend. In fact, Hardy’s jack-the-lad is just plain obnoxious, despite being designed as the film’s comic relief.
Catherine Tate and Adrian Lester, meanwhile, do manage to conjure a wonderful ambiguity as happy divorcees – even though scenes with their daughter lack much conviction.
On the whole, then, this is a mixed affair that fails to make the most of its significant casting coup. It lacks the feel-good factor of Notting Hill or Love Actually and generally frustrates more than it satisfies. But it’s an honourable failure nonetheless.
Running time: 92mins