Azazel Jacobs’ The Lovers is a sweet and gentle film about people who just are – who don’t try to understand their life experiences and emotions but take them as they come, consequences and mistakes be damned
It’s only after Azazel Jacobs’ The Lovers ends that you realise that for a sweet, intimate film about the nebulous nature of love, it barely gives anything away. We don’t know why Michael (Letts) and Mary (Winger) are unhappy in their marriage. We don’t know how long they have been having affairs with Lucy (Walters) and Richard (Gillen) respectively. We don’t even know why the latter two stick around. We don’t really know anything, and that’s just how Jacobs wants it.
Just as the film’s cinematography strips away anything but muted colours (even Michael’s outfits are depressing enough to give Walter White a run for his money), Jacobs’ script strips away anything that could possibly occlude his interest in exploring the feeling of love. Love is irrational, unpredictable; facts have no place here. Does it matter how or why people fall in love? Do lovers sit down and parse their emotions? Of course they don’t. Michael and Mary aren’t interested in analysing their marital breakdown, just as they have no desire to understand their renewed desire for each other. They just want to experience it.
Therein lies the film’s warning, albeit a very gentle one. The Lovers is about people who just are – who don’t try to understand their life experiences but take them as they come. Are they afraid of what analysis might bring to the surface? Are Michael and Mary comfortable in their uncomfortable marriage with lovers on the side or are they quietly haunted by the disappointments of adulthood that youth promised they’d avoid? Is their renewed love for each other a second chance, or a third, fourth, fifth in an endless cycle in which no one will ever feel truly happy and complete?
These questions tinge The Lovers’ sweet, hazy exploration of love with a deep shadow of the melancholy and make for a quietly powerful film.
The Lovers screened at London Film Festival and will be released by Park Circus, date TBC