The Little Death, the English translation of la petite mort – the French term for orgasm, follows the sex lives of four couples that are somewhat intertwined in suburban Sydney. While we are privy to the ins and outs of their relationships, the film is basically about the big ‘O’ and the various ways in which people get there.
Opening with long-term couple Paul (writer/director Josh Lawson) and Maeve (Bojana Novakovic), the film wastes no time in establishing very little boundaries when Maeve reveals that she would like to be raped by her partner. This declaration itself is almost problematic, seeing as though it is a desire, which goes against the act of rape itself. Meanwhile Dan (Damon Herriman) and Evie (Kate Mulvany) are in a relationship rut and on the advice of a therapist they begin to engage in role-playing. It works a treat at the start but soon takes a turn for the worst when Dan becomes too involved in the acting, writing and directing of the scenarios.
Rowena (Kate Box) has been trying to have a baby with her boyfriend Richard (Patrick Brammall) for years. Her doctor maintains there is nothing wrong with either of them physically and suggests that there is a higher chance of conception if she climaxes during sex. However she finds herself in a situation where she is only aroused while Richard is crying. Lastly Phil (Alan Dukes) only derives any kind of pleasure from his relationship with his nagging wife Maureen (Lisa McCune) while she is asleep.
The Little Death is a film about real people and how just anything can go on behind closed doors. While the relationships we’re presented with are quite different, the one common factor is that the lack of honesty is without a doubt their downfall. Lawson does an excellent job at intertwining the lives of the characters just enough to ensure it’s believable and in this sense is almost reminiscent of a much more provocative Love Actually. The cast are wonderful and work very well with each other, with no dull moments lacking chemistry.
We are given a treat in the final act when we’re properly introduced to Monica (Erin James), who works at a call centre, connecting with the deaf via Skype and interpreting sign language to the people they wish to speak to. She meets Sam (TJ Power), who wants to connect with a phone sex worker and the results are funny, quite explicit yet also sweet.
That is entirely the beauty of The Little Death, it is constantly toeing the line between shocking and heart warming. Lawson has filled this film with fun and likeable moments and if this is only his first shot at a feature then there are great things to come.
The Little Death is in Australian cinemas from 25 September through Entertainment One.
Though it is true that there are people who have the desire to be raped, it seems that Lawson plays this too much for laughs and misses the opportunity to explore the darker side of it. Sure, there’s a conversation between the two Lawson brothers, but it brings up the question of whether rape is funny. And the answer in the case of this film (for me) is a resounding no.
Lawson is not the first filmmaker to comment on rape on screen. John Waters A Dirty Shame is rife with every sexual perversion, but the tone is consistent and abjectly & explicitly fantastical.
That said, I did enjoy the stories involving Patrick Brammal and the Skype story. Humourous and rather poignant.
^I thoroughly enjoyed The Little Death but I did feel a bit uncomfortable with rape being made into a joke. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily crossing a line because it doesn’t in any way condone rape or disrespect the victims of true rape, but yeah it was a little ‘hmmm’. Afterwards I didn’t quite know what to think to be honest.