From Zero To I Love You


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

From Zero To I Love You
"Spearman draws his characters well, putting relatively little focus on the romance - which the actors convey just fine in the space they have - and instead exploring the way each of them is affected as a person." | Photo: Courtesy of BFI Flare

What is it about unobtainability that really turns some people on? Any number of people - especially men - will tell you that they never got so much sexual attention as when they started wearing wedding rings. Perhaps it's the fantasy of emotionally safe casual sex, guaranteed by the assurance that the lover will never want to get serious. In the real world, however, that's not always how it goes - for either party.

Pete (Darryl Stephens) has a history of getting involved with married men which apparently has roots in writer/director Doug Spearman's own experiences. His latest crush is on Jack (Scott Bailey), who spends discreet evenings in gay bars but tell his psychiatrist he doesn't want to be gay or bisexual. Jack has been married for 12 years to Karla (Keili Lefkovitz), with whom he has two children. It's clear that there is real love within this marriage, even if Jack sometimes struggles with the sex. But when Jack and Pete rapidly fall in love with one another, it seems inevitable that this will end in unhappiness for some or all of the three.

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Spearman draws his characters well, putting relatively little focus on the romance - which the actors convey just fine in the space they have - and instead exploring the way each of them is affected as a person. His treatment of Karla is particularly good, presenting her as a complex individual with a story of her own and not just an obstacle to Jack understanding himself. There's a brief look at what it means to Pete to be a black guy dating in an overwhelmingly white milieu, which adds to the sense that what he's looking for is a partner with more social status than he has himself, burdened by insecurity; we also see him in conflict with his father (Richard Lawson), who wants him to find a nice guy and settle down. Jack gets the least room to develop despite having a lot of screen time but a strong scene in which he confesses his history of secret flings with men to his straight best friend Eric (Jay Huguley) provides an insight into just how repressed his emotions have been, and in the moments where we see that change it becomes clear how much more there is to him.

That the course of true love does not run smooth here should go without saying. Indeed, as alternative romantic options open up to Pete as well, it's not clear exactly which way happiness lies. This gives Spearman the opportunity to examine other social issues, with a fair bit of the film looking at marriage, assimilation and whether it makes sense for gay people to embrace a relationship model that's pretty obviously a bad fit for many people. Just what would be a good fit for the two leads, both of whom imply they want exclusivity yet serially pursue affairs, is unclear, but it's nice to see a romantic film acknowledge that this territory is complicated. Spearman never lets these deeper themes get in the way of the narrative, which is character-driven throughout.

There's more depth and humanity here than you might expect in a film of this type, the performances are good all round and the production values are high. if you're grown up enough to feel bound to acknowledge the messiness of real life but still sufficiently young at heart to believe in star-crossed lovers, this could be for you.

Reviewed on: 05 Oct 2019
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When Peter bumps into handsome businessman Jack in a gay bar, they begin a passionate relationship, in spite of Jack being married. Peter keeps ending up with married men and realises that if his life is ever going to get better, something needs to change.

Director: Doug Spearman

Writer: Doug Spearman

Starring: Darryl Stephens, Scott Bailey, Keili Lefkovitz

Year: 2019

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US

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