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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Darling, When Is Love Not Enough?

Editor's note: This week, The ACP is covering the indie film "Love Is Not Enough," directed by Bryan Darling and produced by Megan Vrolijk. Please show your support, as the film is released on Saturday at the Ninth Street Independent Film Festival in San Francisco, California! For more information, be sure to check out their website here! Be warned, however, as our article contains spoilers - we recommend viewing the film first!

Above: Main characters, Conrad and Eric on their first date.
Put concisely, Bryan Darling's indie film "Love Is Not Enough" follows the relationship of Eric (played by Scott Cox) and Conrad (played by Brian Clark Jansen) as it attempts to power through its first big problem: Conrad is a polyamorist and Eric is strictly monogamous. But as the title implies, it tries to answer a very difficult question underneath it all: when is love not enough to maintain a relationship? What is the tipping point?

Focusing strictly on the turning points of the relationship, the movie hints that on several occasions Eric watched the progression of Conrad's romance with Thomas (played by JD Rudometkin) and did not fight back. As Conrad points out, during their first big confrontation "I have never lied. I have never cheated on you. You always had a choice in the matter. I mean, you could have said no at any point." So, from Eric's perspective at least, discovering something about your lover with which you harshly disagree was not the tipping point. Eric, desperate and inspired by love, tries to make it work; he even goes as far as to meet Thomas.

Albeit, Eric comes off as a bit of a pushover many scenes, so it's unclear how much manipulation and coercing Conrad performed to bring Eric to this point. But Eric is noticeably the more invested one in the relationship, which could also drive his decision to do whatever it takes to make his relationship with Conrad work.

The moment right before the credits roll, this dialogue takes place:
"It seems like you're trying to ask me to choose between who I am and who you want me to be."
"See that's exactly what you're asking of me."

Thomas, the third in the love triangle.
From Eric's perspective, love is not enough when two people have to make this choice. Much like many relationships, Eric senses the resentment that would follow from being only who his lover wanted him to be. Eric's decisions, actions and thoughts imply that the ideal relationship is not one where someone begrudgingly tolerates who someone is, nor is it one where someone has to change who he is to make it work. It's when two people already compliment each other so well that both people enjoy the other.

This is not to say that minor turbulence should direct one to cut and run; this is why the goldfish scene exists. Eric and Conrad have trouble naming a goldfish, primarily because Conrad thinks owning and naming one is "so domestic." But the timeline implies this is somewhat prior to the tipping point, as much happens in between that time. Although, one could also argue that Conrad's polyamory panicked as a domestic, committed relationship began to surface in small signs like goldfish, setting his seeking of Thomas in motion. But, in Conrad's defense, he was doing what he thought could save the relationship: he tried to be a little more of who he was so that he didn't feel smothered by Eric's "so domestic" lifestyle imposed upon him.

Conrad defends himself.
The film, as a whole, presents very strong questions: "What is more important, who I am or who my love wants me to be? And at what point do I stop sacrificing and compromising and just follow my heart?" Through cathartic scenes that show the way all kinds of love - romantic, familial or friendly - feel this question from time to time, "Love Is Not Enough" fantastically displays two sides of a coin that, while clearly not leaning one way or another, is bound to fall eventually. And when one sees that the choice comes down either self-identity compromise or heartbreak, neither of which are ideal, something has to give.

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