Sex in the Modern World
Director Colin Kennedy’s debut feature takes us to swinging Glasgow where we meet Alice (Elena Anaya) and David (Owen McDonnell), a 30-something couple whose dysfunction in the bedroom takes them into the hidden world of sex chat rooms and partner-swapping.
David’s crisis begins when he is unemployed following the collapse of his company and in the midst of finalizing a divorce. His wife, Alice is frustrated knowing that his impotence isn’t merely symbolic since David suffers from erectile dysfunction. When Alice discovers that he has been spending time in swinging chat rooms, she recognizes an opportunity to breathe life into their relationship and bring it back to life. Alice and David are bound together by obvious emotional and intellectual bonds and search for physical healing in the hilarious, absurd and – at times – sublime sexual underworld they uncover in Scotland.
The movie is filled black humor and emotional exploration A ex therapy session is awkward as is an all-male swinging ice-breaker but the best way to approach the film is to become art of and care about the relationship between Alice and David. The actors are excellent all around and give their characters a fragility and sense of desperation that lurks beneath their charming exteriors. We immediately see why they are attracted to one another and the reason for their desperation comes out as the film moves forward and back stories are exposed. We sense a genuine, flawed relationship that couldn’t exist without chemistry. There is graphic sex but it is not gratuitous. David’s impotency causes strain in their relationship, one which Alice hopes may be solved with a detour into the world of swinging. There is the potential to play this for laughs, and occasionally the film does.
When it explores the awkward swinging encounters, the vulnerable intimacy captured in the looks between David and Alice, the film is quit strong. Each looks at the other and wonders how far will they take this? David is unemployed and has a soon-to-be ex-wife and young daughter to consider, while Alice’s job is also under threat and she wonders how serious David is about commitment. Visually the film gives us x-rated moments and “Swung” is less successful in capturing the everyday moments, however, with conversations between David and Alice often feels flat.
The film is based on the Ewan Morrison’s acclaimed novel of the same name and is a no-holds-barred look at sex in the modern world. It is anchored around an excellently acted and believable central pairing. Above and beyond between-the-sheets intimacy and pillow talk, there is a closeness between the two leads and this can only be achieved through two actors who are very much at ease.
Representations of sex are handled with style and grace, framed in between shadows and darkened spaces or with a blurred lens. The inability to come together physically means that David and Alice’s relationship is more significant here than the act itself.