Director: Stacie Passon.
Starring: Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Julie Fain Lawrence.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Synopsis: Abby Ableman (Abby Weigert) has become disillusioned with her wife and children. After suffering an accidental concussion at the hands of her son, she looks for a means of escape and becomes a prostitute for other women.
If JAWS is not really about a shark, then CONCUSSION is not really about sex. It is a character study of a woman seeking more from her pleasant but unsatisfying life. Creatively treading water and barely touched by her wife, she seeks excitement outside of the family which draws her into becoming a sex worker.
This is not a film that vilifies prostitution, nor does it glamourise it. While she works the high-end, she is never seen parading around PRETTY WOMAN style with designer bags and a grin you could hurl a discus into. Nor is she ever in any physical danger that, in reality, hangs over her profession like the Sword of Damocles. One could argue that this is about middle class white folk with middle class white problems. It would be easy to fail to sympathise with someone who is so loved, wealthy and comfortable. But this is about something very human, very much a part of all of us; that undefinable yearning to want something other than what you have, whatever you have. This is no tale of avarice, as Abby does not want more than she has, she just wants something else and doesn’t know why.
In the opening few minutes (after a nicely cut opening title sequence with David Bowie’s ‘Oh You Pretty Things’), Abby is concussed by a wayward baseball thrown by her son which seems to literally and metaphorically shake her up. What follows is her exploration into a world of sexual awakening and emotional growth as she balances the guilt of infidelity with her need – her primal need – for the physical pleasure she does not receive from her partner. Writer and director Stacie Passon evokes this beautifully with frequent, superb use of montage, an economical, often funny and deeply involving script and, primarily, a fantastic central performance from Robin Weigert. Hers is a completely believable portrayal of a successful person shackled by ennui and desperate to be unchained, even if she doesn’t know what her freedom will provide.
What Passon does is something rare and important, which is to represent a gay couple not defined by their homosexuality. Abby and her wife Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) could be two women, a guy and a girl or two chaps. What matters is their character and relationship with each other and their children. It just so happens that they are female. Then comes the sex, so to speak. In the hands of a lesser director, this could easily have become softcore titillation. But Passon shows that she is above the easy pitfalls that lesser works such as ADORE fall in to. The love scenes are often intercut with shots of interior decorating, equating fetishisation of the body with that of domestic trappings such as marble kitchen tops and tiles. It is far from explicit with surprisingly little nudity, and this works completely in the film’s favour, reminding us that this is about character, not nameless bed-hopping. Abby/Eleanor gets to know her clients – all ladies – and their mutual development makes events all the more believable.
CONCUSSION is a very strong piece of work, quietly important, sexy, involving, and will speak to a lot of people. Passon will certainly be a filmmaker to watch; a queer female voice who is not limited to having to tell totemic tales but instead provides character and narrative that transcends gender and sexual orientation and will appeal to everybody. This is a film about people, age, desire, family and searching for what we want. It’s queer, it’s human, it’s wonderful.