Inside Out 2012: ‘Keep the Lights On’; a powder Blue Valentine
Keep the Lights On
Directed by Ira Sachs
Written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias
Keep the Lights On tells the story of Erik Rothman (Thure Lindhardt), a gay Danish documentary filmmaker living in late 90’s New York City. While not filming, Erik likes to patron the city’s phone-sex lines, soliciting no-strings-attached one-night stands with complete strangers. In one of those random encounters, he meets Paul (Zachary Booth), whom he starts a relationship with. But as the two men start building a life together, a not-so-hidden vice begins taking a heavy toll on their relationship, resulting in pain, loss, and desperation.
The most accurate way to describe Keep the Lights On and its many flaws is to compare and contrast it with Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine. In the aforementioned, the lead characters, played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, chronicles a relationship that also devolves into shambles.
The reason why Blue Valentine works is because it posits a genuinely tragic situation. In it, Gosling and Williams’ characters meet and fall in love in a touching, almost whimsical fashion. Their relationship blossoms organically and unimpeded by outside meddling, so when everything starts falling apart at the seams, we are left questioning why. We come to understand that it’s simply because they’ve grown apart from each other, and this brutal frankness and simplicity makes the entire affair more moving, creating a film of lasting emotional effect.