A/V Room









The Principles of Lust (18)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

EXTREME cinema, by its very nature, has to walk a very fine line between what’s acceptable and what feels voyeuristic or simply there for shock value. The Principles of Lust falls into both of the latter categories and ends up a thoroughly nasty affair.

Written and directed by Penny Woolcock, the film sets its stall out as an unflinching depiction of sexual relationships, played out against the backdrop of life in Yorkshire, yet while certainly hard-hitting and frank in its portrayal of both, the overall effect is both sordid and smothering.

Alec Newman stars as unemployed aspiring writer, Paul, who is offered an escape from his boring existence by two new friendships - one of which offers safety and commitment, and the other which constantly threatens to tip him over the edge.

He first meets obnoxious thrill-seeker, Billy (Marc Warren), following a car crash, and finds himself increasingly drawn towards the photographer’s world of sexual excess and illegal bare-knuckle brawling, while also struggling to build a relationship with beautiful single mother, Juliette (Sienna Guillory), who offers him the chance to further his writing, if he will stay at home and look after her son.

The ensuing lifestyle dilemma starts strongly enough, but quickly descends into murky territory, while failing to provide any characters that audiences can genuinely root for.

Paul, for instance, is very much the author of his own despair and feels singularly unsympathetic throughout, despite a decent performance from Newman, while we have seen Warren play the unnerving psychopath before - even though his portrayal of Billy is especially loathsome.

Woolcock insists on infusing her film with the same kind of ‘grim up North’ mentality that besets so many British films, dragging the viewer down with its dreary tone, and she also opts for shock tactics, rather than making the viewer do any real work in terms of the nature of relationships. In fact, the answers to the questions she poses seem obvious from the beginning.

Worse still, however, is her depiction of the world in which Billy inhabits, which all-too frequently veers into abhorrent territory.

An orgy, late on, feels voyeuristic and borderline pornographic, but pales into insignificance by comparison with her depiction of the world of bare-knuckle brawlers - particularly when she opts to show, in close-up, a fight between two 11-year-olds, backed by their fathers, in which one child is shown to visibly chew on the cheek of the other, before spitting it out.

There is no justification for showing such scenes, and no intention other than to shock, and the film fails to recover from it, ending up as a reprehensible work from an otherwise promising director.

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z