I should have gone in blind. But I didn’t. I let preconceived expectations guide my experience. It was hard not to. Writer/director Travis Mathews’ debut fiction feature I Want Your Love (2012) welcomes us back to the familiar territory of queer friends living in San Francisco. It is a city that has produced some of the greatest queer characters to ever grace our screens. To read the synopsis was to sink into the arms of a long-departed lover. Such is the power of association. And so, I went in expecting greatness.
Best instead to approach the movie for what it is: a thinly stitched tale of a gay man preparing to move back to the Midwest. There will be hints of conflict, flickers of romance and the occasional sex scene.
Jesse Metzeger plays Jesse, a performance artist forced out of San Fransisco by escalating prices. Perhaps his greatest anxiety about the move? Saying goodbye to Ben (Ben Jasper). His ex-boyfriend. His “comfort food.”
Jesse and Ben’s relationship is central to the narrative and yet we are kept at arm’s length. We are offered little history and almost no context. We are detached observers, denied access to the wider story. The two characters share little screen time, a tragic shame given their palpable chemistry. Instead we witness inconsequential conversations at the fringes of Jesse’s existence. A superficial tapestry of characters at the expense of offering any real depth.
Do not expect to find characters that linger. Rather, these are characters destined to remain locked in our screens, patiently awaiting their next observation. Nor should you expect a plot that hooks, that pleads for a resolution. I Want Your Love is something to watch mindlessly. It will provide company if you’re solo self-isolated.
The film’s explicit sex scenes perhaps offer the greatest testament to Mathews’ mastery. There is plenty of unstimulated sex, perhaps no surprise given the financial backing of NakedSword, though the sex here is not pornographic. The sex scenes are understated, genuine. Awkward. Playful. They feature conversations and gestures to which we are seldom privy. When it comes to sex, viewers are so often thrust straight into the action. I Want Your Love slows the process, relishing in a symphony that would stunt the arousal derived by the illusion of porn. “I want to fuck you” one character asks another as they fool around, “You down?” There is tenderness and excitement, a respect for mutual pleasure. It is refreshing to see in a sexual arena plagued by notions of topping and bottoming and the power relations entailed. Unstimulated sex hides nothing. The naked bodies on display depart from those typically seen in mainstream culture, namely white, muscled men. Here, the bodies are representative of reality, recognizing the diversity of the human body.
There are moments of beauty, heartfelt scenes of intimacy that shake the heart, if only for the briefest of moments. Its these rare moments that demonstrate the cast’s talent and Mathews’ command as a writer and director.
By Boris Abrams