The biggest problem with the delightful Young People Fucking is its title. Perhaps filmmakers Martin Gero and Aaron Abrams thought that dropping an expletive connoting the sexual act into mix would draw more folks into the theater, but in reality it just makes the public at large think that this charming, dialogue-driven relationship comedy is nothing but cheap Canadian porn. It’s not porn, though there is a lot of sex in it. Pornography could be denoted as cinema meant only to titillate through explicit sex scenes, lacking any emotional context that might give the sex meaning. Young People Fucking, conversely, is all about the emotional context, with the sex, titillating as it might be to the characters on screen, being of secondary concern to the audience.
The plot is split up into 6 segments that neatly encapsulate the stages of seduction: Prelude, Foreplay, Sex, Interlude, Orgasm, Afterglow (followed, if only in my mind, by Cigarette, Another Cigarette, Nap Time and, finally, Shower). Within each segment, we follow a few different stories involving unrelated characters that all have one basic thing in common: they’re about to have sex. There is the Couple (Josh Dean and Kristin Booth), who’ve become bored with their sex life. The First Date involves a caddish playboy (Callum Best) and his wide-eyed lady friend (Diora Baird) who are finishing a night out with a night in. The Exes (Sonja Bennet and Matt Cook) are testing the terms of their break up with a pre-meditated one-night stand. Then there’s The Roomates: Gord (Ennis Esmer) invites his nebbishy roommate Dave (Peter Oldring) to bang Gord’s girlfriend Inez (Natalie Lisinska) in front of him for the edification of all involved. And there is my personal favorite, the Friends (screenwriter Aaron Abrams and Carly Pope), who half-heartedly decide to screw each other because there’s no one else around to screw. As the film moves from segment to segment, it becomes clear that to most of these people, sex is not really just sex and the implication of the act reaches far beyond instant gratification.
Thankfully, none of these stories are connected in any narrative way ala Four Weddings and Funeral, the mother of all relationship sex comedies. These characters aren’t related, don’t live in the same building, aren’t calling each up to share details about their conquests, aren’t bumping into each other at the local convenience store while on a condom run. Such intimate relations would complicate this simple treatise about desire and obscure the simplicity at the heart of the film. What really matters is the act going on in these 5 separate bedrooms, between the people who are in them. And they can complicate things themselves without help from friends and relatives, as made very clear in the story of the Exes who contemplate each other sadly even as they embrace the desire that emotional incompatibility could not douse completely.
What is most admirable about Young People Fucking is the honest way it treats the, yes, humor of sex because, let’s face it, sex can be very, very funny. What’s not hilarious about Gord interrupting his roommate with the order to quit this “caressing and making love shit” to the dishy Inez? Or about the deer-in-the-headlights look on Andrew’s face as Monica demonstrates how the candy colored strap on she won as a door prize at a bachelorette party will work for both of them? Young People Fucking also neatly does away with the Hollywood version of sex, in which a breathy love song plays in the background while two beautiful things roll around ecstatically in bed. The sexual situations encountered here are realistic to the core, with all the grime therein. The “it could happen to you” pragmatism in the sex scenes gives the film an appealing immediacy and relevance to the lives of, well, young people who fuck, but the mixture of pathos and hope will appeal to anyone, no matter what team you swing for or what year you were born in. The only let down is that, other than an engaging denouement for Gord and Inez, there are no great revelations, no ground-breaking lessons learned. But, considering how lovely and well constructed the rest of the film is, I can let that go.
The film ends with a sweet scene affirming the idea that sex and love don’t necessarily dwell on opposite poles. Though Bill Donahue is probably waiting in the wings to denounce Young People Fucking as obscene the moment it comes out, the film really does affirm the traditional view that although there can be sex without love, love is what brings meaning to sex in the first place, and love, not sex, is what everyone should be aiming for in the long run, way before the Prelude, before the Foreplay and before… well, you know how the rest goes.
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