Eating the Bones
starring Hill Harper, Marlyne Afflack, Mark Taylor, Kai Soremekun
written and directed by Sudz Sutherland
by Travis Mackenzie Hoover Rightly or wrongly, the romantic comedy is usually viewed as a low-priority genre and handed out to style-free directors settling for second best. On the surface, Love, Sex and Eating the Bones would appear to be one of these films, beset as it is by an obsequious realist aesthetic that stays out of the way of the narrative. But writer-director Sudz Sutherland instils it with something that most rom-coms don't normally have: speed. Instead of lingering ponderously over the content of the screenplay, he states his points, lets them speak for themselves, and moves on. This makes Love, Sex and Eating the Bones a brisk, energizing experience--no masterpiece, perhaps, but easily the most fleet-footed Canadian film to emerge in a long time.
The young, black Michael (Hill Harper) is an aspiring photographer who works as a security guard to pay the rent. By chance he meets ad executive Jasmine (Marlyne N. Afflack) at the laundromat and is instantly smitten; despite her misgivings, she is impressed by his photography and they start a relationship. There's just one problem: Michael is into porn. Heavily. So much so that he has trouble being aroused by mere flesh and blood--he must have that hyperbolic thrill to which real life can only take a back seat. And though Jasmine--who was badly burned by a past relationship--is game at first to play along, she soon tires of competing for his attention. Thus the film's motto emerges: porn fancier--heal thyself!
Now, the juxtaposition of the terms "pornography" and "Canadian film" is an ominous one, conjuring images of castigating glances and immense shame--one shudders to think of what Atom Egoyan would have made of this material. Fortunately for us, Sutherland is the one in the driver's seat, and he isn't interested in punishing his lead--merely in leading him out of the mental cul-de-sac in which he is trapped. After an endless stream of Canuck efforts in which the alienated beat their heads against a wall in an endless circuit of solitude, it's nice to see Sutherland a) try to get his protagonist out, and b) not treat him like a monster for being inside in the first place. To Sutherland, problems are surmountable and sins are forgivable, and his generosity is warm and infectious.
That laissez-faire attitude extends to the rest of the film, too, which doesn't obsess over its message. The actors, from Harper and Afflack to the supporting players (especially Kai Sormekun as Jasmine's cousin-slash-roommate), are all bright and swift in their portrayals, never succumbing to the lugubrious murmuring that tends to blight our cinema thespians, while the pace moves at a casual clip that never falters or is distracted by detours. And the gentle, celebratory tone manages to maintain interest and humour, with just enough gravity to keep it all from blowing away. It is perhaps not genius, but it's not gunning for it, either; Love, Sex and Eating the Bones is, in any event, a breath of fresh air in a cinema that too often mistakes quivering paralysis for seriousness and substance. Originally published: March 5, 2004.