The End Of Sex


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Melanie Scrofano, Emily Hampshire and Jonas Chernick in The End Of Sex
"As in most successful sex comedies, the key to this film is that it’s not really sex that’s the problem, but rather the great weight of other concerns – about self-esteem, social status and ageing – associated with it."

Are you getting enough sex? Is it the right kind of sex? Is it as good as the sex which your neighbours are having, or the people across the street? We live in a society which is obsessed by these questions and suffused with sexual imagery, yet in which there is relatively little honest conversation about how sex fits into our lives in the real world. One of the few formats in which this can be addressed is comedy, and Sean Garrity’s latest contribution to the Toronto International Film Festival line-up tells a story which viewers from many different backgrounds will relate to.

Josh (screenwriter Jonas Chernick) and Emma (Emily Hampshire, who starred alongside Chernick in another sex comedy by Garrity ten years previously) are a couple in early middle age watching their children set off on holiday without them for the first time, for winter camp. Josh is distraught despite the girls’ cheery confidence, but both he and Emma have been looking forward to getting some time alone together. They can do whatever they like, they remind each other. They can have sex in every room in the house. It doesn’t matter how much noise they make. Only somehow – for no easily discernible reason – it just doesn’t work.

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The truth is that despite what we like to tell ourselves about them, most long term relationships hit a point, sooner or later, when sexual passion wanes. This doesn’t necessarily mean that love has faded, and indeed, Josh and Emma remain affectionate and deeply invest6yed in their relationship – so much so that they’re ready to try anything to try to get that passion back. So begins a series of adventures involving a threesome, flirtation with an old flame, a visit to a sex club and an awful lot of of angst.

The sex they have is like that mango chicken stir fry which Emma makes. Josh explains. He doesn’t love it but he eats it because that’s part of the deal. She doesn’t take this badly – she seems to relate – but it still seems like a good idea to try adding a bit of spice. The trouble is that even with carefully chosen ingredients, it’s hard to get the recipe just right. What might sound exciting as fantasy doesn’t always work out that way in reality, and Josh and Emma need to figure out individually what they actually want before they can work towards it together.

Whilst the central characters are both endearing in their way and one hopes for the best for them, what gives the film its magic is the attention paid to supporting characters, who feel like fully fleshed out human beings rather than just props for the protagonists’ journey of discovery. Melanie Scrofano brings humanity to the often thankless role of the bisexual friend with a crush on the heroine, with her subplot also stressing the importance of friendship. Gray Powell is rather sweetly bamboozled as Emma’s gallery owner ex, who has enough of a sense of humour to cope with her at her most appalling and not take it too badly. Then there’s Lily Gao, who shines as the sexually confident and socially ruthless work colleague determined to help Josh get his act together no matter what it takes. The age gap in the latter case also allows for an exploration of changing social attitudes and for the central couple’s gradual realisation that they’ve changed since the days when sex was at the centre of their lives.

As in most successful sex comedies, the key to this film is that it’s not really sex that’s the problem, but rather the great weight of other concerns – about self-esteem, social status and ageing – associated with it. The production design team have had a lot of fun making it seem otherwise, with an art exhibition full of giant black and white photographs of testicles, highly suggestive advertising featuring bananas, and more. The silliness of it all is carefully balanced with the very real sense of panic as two people who love each other become gradually more convinced that their relationship is falling apart – and with the days ticking by until the kids come home, they don’t have long in which to find a solution.

Heartfelt and funny and human, The End Of Sex may not be something yo want to contemplate for too long, but it’s a great watch.

Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2022
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A couple feeling the pressures of parenting and adulthood, send their kids to winter camp for the first time and embark on a series of sexual adventures to reinvigorate their relationship.
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Director: Sean Garrity

Writer: Jonas Chernick

Starring: Emily Hampshire, Jonas Chernick, Gray Powell, Lily Gao, Melanie Scrofano

Year: 2022

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: Canada

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