"Year Without Sex" proves to be time well spent
SYDNEY (Hollywood Reporter) - Australian writer-director Sarah Watt is not averse to throwing the odd narrative curveball, and the nimble tonal shifts of "My Year Without Sex" are sure to keep audiences on their toes. Starting with the attention-grabbing title -- not a frat boy's lament but the unlucky consequence of a middle-class mom's medical condition -- the buoyant dramatic comedy takes many an unpredictable swerve, and proves Watt's breakout 2005 hit, "Look Both Ways," was no fluke.
As in "Look Both Ways," the writer-director confronts life's thornier concerns -- love, sex, death and religion -- all the while keeping a tight rein on sentimentality and dusting proceedings with sprinkles of wry humor. This follow-up, which opens Thursday (May 28) in Australia, is sure to mirror the domestic success of her debut and put a smile on the face of the international art-house crowd.
The talented Sacha Horler is terrific as Natalie, an earthy Melbourne mother struck down by a brain aneurysm during a routine doctor's visit. She returns to her loving family and the domestic clutter of their life under strict instructions to avoid any activity that may trigger a recurrence -- including sex with husband Ross (Matt Day).
The new vulnerability throws an element of crisis into the already messy world of a regular, suburban two-kids-and-a-dog family as it makes its way through a 12-month cycle of birthday parties, loose teeth, football training and family vacations.
In a nod to her animation background, Watts splices the film into segments with quirky, sex-themed titles which add even more bounce to a screenplay that cleverly avoids getting bogged down in minutiae. Watt's keen observational gift for the little things that make families tick is abetted by her characters' disarming tendency to say exactly what they think.
Mortgage pressure, fears of redundancy and an obligatory workplace flirtation join less conventional diversions such as Natalie's dalliance with religion via friendship with a female '80s rocker-turned-priest (Maude Davey).
Australian filmmakers have a maddening tendency to mock the denizens of suburbia, but Watt shows great affection for her characters. And it's catching.
Jonathan Segat and Portia Bradley are delightful as the couple's football-mad son and bubbly 7-year-old daughter, and Day lends an understated charm to his role as the besieged everyman doing his best under trying circumstances.
The honest, loving relationships at the core of "Sex" give it a thumping pulse, and top-notch performances across the board help make every action and reaction compellingly real.
(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)
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