The connections between two lovers are finite, and the feelings that swell up and over them bind the two people together in an obsession. But they eventually recede, leaving behind nothing but the outline of a bell curve. In Keep The Lights On Ira Sachs (The Delta, Forth Shades of Blue) has brilliantly documented the arc of his own troubled nine-year relationship with literary agent and author Bill Clegg. Bathing his characters in an embracing, radiant glow, Sachs moves through the stages of his relationship, shining an unflinching spotlight on his past and the corrosion wrought by gay shame and addiction, showing how the closet can damage our relationships and our lives. Cerebral, reflective and emotionally raw, Keep The Lights On is a testament that intelligently crafted gay-centric films are still being made in America today.
The film opens on paintings of nude men propelled across the screen, visually evoking the infinite appetite of desire, its forward drive pushing gay men towards new sexual encounters and friendships and new men to fall in love with, incessantly. Standing in for Sachs is Erick (Thure Lindhardt), a documentary filmmaker, who we meet circa 1996 in a sparse New York apartment working the sex phone lines. He stokes himself as he sells himself through the handset—“uncut, 6.5, top.” Clicking through possible matches, Erick is clearly sexually frustrated. So he is relieved to make a connection with Paul (Zachery Booth); there is obvious chemistry between the two men on screen, despite the fact that Paul is still closeted with a girlfriend.