I Want Your Love

I Want Your Love


Reviewed by: David Graham

A pseudo-porn drama from James Franco affiliate Travis Mathews, this works a similar semi-improvised vibe to John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, but with diminishing returns. It’s bracingly brief and marked by engaging acting as well as the rawness of its scenes (you can almost smell the sex) but it’s also pretty slight, and tarred by its wearisome protagonist. Refreshingly, none of these people are well-hung gym bunnies, which keeps the un-simulated action from becoming too gratuitous, but the emphasis on pretentious bohemian characters robs the film of some of its potential appeal.

Jesse is a struggling performance artist living among San Fran’s close-knit queer community, who’s never quite got over a long-term relationship with the more stable Ben. Deciding to take himself out of the loop for a while in order to reconnect with his muse, his plans to move back to his (and Kim Deal’s) middle-of-nowhere hometown so his supportive friends planning a massive leaving party. Despite the prospect of some last-minute lovin’ – whether it’s from Ben, a sympathetic neighbour or elsewhere – Jesse can’t break the funk he’s slipped into, questioning whether he’s doing the right thing and in particular whether he can face his estranged father.

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A lengthy opening sequence focuses on Jesse’s mixed emotions during an intimate kitchen get-together, his pre-occupied expressions saying as much as his superficially upbeat responses to friends’ well-meaning banter. The self-doubt often engendered by growing up gay is nailed in a subsequent chat with an older neighbour, whose advice and example aren’t necessarily easy for Jesse to take in and live up to.

A plaintive mood is further established during the credits through lingering shots of deserted SF streets, the lamplight and veil of fog giving the pair of prospective lovers we follow an air of both romance and anonymity, the crux of many homosexual one-night stands. Spying on Jesse and his conquest in the bedroom, the camera lingers up-close on oral sex, masturbation and ejaculation in an unapologetic manner that will have many viewers dashing for the exits out of disgust or fear of actually being turned on.

This scene sets up the film’s raison d’etre though: it shows how rather than helping people overcome their neuroses, this kind of encounter can sometimes reinforce them. In stark contrast to most porn, the course of true sex never did run smooth.

There’s another brief sex scene to introduce us to Jesse’s bear flatmate and his new twink boyfriend, but after that Mathews sticks admirably close to his dramatic ambitions, with an engaging midsection full of amusing dialogue, likably real characters and recognisable situations. The un-showy, in-your-face shooting style works in the film’s favour, and there are many well-played reflective moments that most viewers will be able to relate to: waking up next to a stranger you just want to leave; a new lover’s long-standing friendships testing your self-esteem; weighing up whether to relapse with an ex or pursue a flirtation with an enervating acquaintance.

As most of the players converge for Jesse’s party, he remains downstairs, unable to face the friends he’s leaving. This unfortunately is the final nail in the coffin for a protagonist who’s been almost uniformly dour and unappealing, despite Jesse Metzger’s sincere and nuanced performance. There’s much more fun to be had upstairs, where all manner of good-natured inter-racial, three-in-a-bed romping is taking place.

This is perhaps where Mathews sinks into 9 Songs-style indulgence when he should probably be sticking to Shortbus’ more celebratory stance: while all his sex scenes are tempered with fine character detail, they work best when the participants seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Does anyone really want to see someone burst into tears while being fisted? Also, considering the variety of shenanigans and characters, it’s a shame there’s next to no female interaction, although Mathews perhaps shouldn’t be scolded for sticking to what he knows.

For all its grit and grime, I Want Your Love does have an agreeably soft centre: it’s not going to linger long in the memory, but it’s a valiant attempt to inject a little more meaning into porn, or a little more reality into sex-based drama, depending on how you approach it. The abrupt, inconclusive ending feels like a false nod to art-house predilections, but all the performers acquit themselves well and there’s a nice sense of community that younger queer viewers especially – who may not have found their social niche yet – will find heart-warming. The sex won’t be titillating enough for the dirty mac brigade, but Mathew’s USP is the soul behind it.

Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2013
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A gay man spends his final night in San Francisco before moving back to the Midwest.
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Director: Travis Mathews

Writer: Travis Mathews

Starring: Jesse Metzger, Brontez Purnell, Ben Jasper, Keith McDonald, Jorge Rodolfo

Year: 2012

Runtime: 71 minutes

Country: US


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