Directed by Tom Hall. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Luanne Gordon, Patrick Ryan, Kelly Campbell, Owen Roe. 107 mins.
In cinemas November 4
DOMHANLL GLEESON SHINES IN SMART, DARKLY FUNNY EXAMINATION OF SEX AND LONELINESS
From the opening scene of Sensation, in which Donal (Domhnall Gleeson) sneaks off to masturbate in a field, Tom Hall’s quirky, darkly funny film appears to be a definitive tale of sexual awakening. But when Donal forges a connection with jaded prostitute Kim (Luanne Gordon), it becomes clear that while this awkward farmboy may have little experience of sex, it’s intimacy that will become the transformative power in his life.
Nicely straddling a realistic middle ground between Julia Roberts’ rainbows and unicorns, happy-ever-after prostitution parable and the current trend for harrowing torture-porn portrayals, Tom Hall wisely avoids simplifying the complex politics of prostitution. Though Donal and Kim’s interactions demonstrate a genuine affection, they never escape the origins of their relationship as they continue to exploit each other for sex, money and escape from their shared loneliness.
Victims of a sex-obsessed culture, Donal and Kim are realistically flawed, displaying frequent ugly bursts of cruelty that stem from lives uniquely defined by sex. Though he habitually watches pornography, Donal reveals the only real sex advice he received was a joke about sheep-shagging. It’s therefore no surprise that while he doesn’t hesitate to push down on Kim’s head as she performs oral sex on him, he can’t bring himself to talk to the pretty cashier in the local shop. After all, late night chat-lines don’t offer tutorials in small-talk.
But though it addresses serious themes, Sensation never feels heavy-handed. Indeed Hall’s subtle and often hilarious screenplay is filled with countless dry one-liners, delivered brilliantly by the two leads. Gleeson – much like his father – demonstrates an innate understanding of how to balance somewhat tragic characters with an offbeat sense of humour. His awkwardness and comic timing lend themselves perfectly to Donal’s clumsy attempts at social interaction, which are absolutely excruciating but completely endearing.
An acutely observed and superbly acted examination of loneliness and sex in rural Ireland, Sensation may be a film about sex, but it’s filled with a hell of a lot of heart.
See the trailer here.