Damion Dietz has been quite a productive director lately. In the last couple of years we have seen the DVD releases of three of his films, “Beverly Kills”, “Neverland” and “Love Life” (WaterBearer Films)—his newest and most compelling and complex.
“Love Life” hits you hard emotionally. It is the story of a couple in an unhappy marriage of convenience. Joe, the husband, had been a professional baseball player who just happens to desire men but in need of a “beard”. His wife, Mary, is a lesbian who needs a husband so that she can have access to her trust fund. Together they both get what they need. “Love Life” looks equally at both sides of the marriage. Everything with their arrangement seems to work just perfectly. One day in a park, Joe picks up a man, apparently not for the first time. It seems that he has quite a long run of casual encounters and as long as the sex does not become complicated he is happy and has no need to exist in the closet. Mary’s roommate from college comes to visit her and we learn that they had once been lovers. Everything gains complications when Joe goes to bed with their landscaper and Mary has sex with her ex-lover. At this point, we can only wonder what is next for the “happy” couple.
As you can probably guess, this is a dark and disturbing movie. Mary (Stephanie Kirchen) and Joe (Stephen D. Gill) live a life of a secret that is not so secret. Mary has deluded herself into believing that she is happy but this all falls to pieces when her college roommate appears and Joe embarks on his affair with the landscaper. They both realize that the time has come to face the reality of their lives. What makes this movie unique is that the relationship is shown from both sides.
The movie is a melodrama in all of its aspects—quite a change from the earlier genre of film that he has worked in. The idea of the movie may not be new but the way in which it presented is fresh. As both masks ad clothes are striped away, we get an inside look at two people living a lie and we watch too adults forced to struggle with their emotions as well as their romantic leanings.
The movie is completely minimalist as it peers into the lives of two people who are unhappy with the way they live and with their sexuality. “Be yourself” is the message that comes across loud and clear and the drama of denial slaps the viewer across the face. The price that was paid for wealth and social standing is very high if happiness is not included. The film peels away the outer layer of sham happiness as the subtext rises to the surface.
What the film is about is pretense and living a lie. The nudity and sexuality of the film are well integrated into the film and are there to show that this is functional to the story.
The characters here do not suffer the oppression of society as much as they suffer from self-oppression. They are in a closet that they have put themselves into. We all have to look at ourselves to ask where we fit.