USA 2013

Director: Stacie Passon

Writer: Stacie Passon

Runtime: 96 mins

A lesbian drama that lacks drama

This directorial debut for Stacie Passon has already received recognition at several festivals around the world, including being awarded the Teddy Jury Prize in Berlin and a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival. Perhaps I expected too much given this pedigree, but Concussion was something of a let-down. It would be easy to make a cheap joke about how Concussion gave me a headache, but in truth this movie is far too anodyne to achieve such a result and that is its basic flaw.

Abby (Robin Weigert) is in a sexless lesbian relationship with Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence), who is also the mother of young Jake (Micah Shapero). Abby begins paying for sex with lesbian prostitutes, but after she gives an orgasm to one of the women she has hired Abby sets up in business herself. She insists on meeting first-time clients for coffee before going to bed with them, and we discover a wide range of reasons for women paying for sex with another woman. Abby only wants to meet women from outside her own town, but this changes when a new client turns out to be in her circle of acquaintances (and married to a master of the universe at Goldman Sachs).

It is no great surprise that many people have secrets in their lives, but to see a range of these secret lives depicted on screen was quite illuminating, especially because Abby’s clients cannot be easily categorised – they come from a range of backgrounds and display different motivations and desires. Another strength of the film is the way that it treats lesbian relationships and lesbian parenthood as an unexceptional part of life. Where the film fails is in delivering any kind of drama, conflict, or amusement. In the first ten minutes or so, there are some witty moments, but having created an expectation that this might be quite a humorous film there is nothing much that subsequently amuses. Abby is living a double life, but we never get any sense that there is anything much at stake. There are no real character conflicts and so there is never any real dramatic tension. Will Kate discover what Abby has been doing? Yes? No? Who cares?

Maybe I missed something obvious, but I didn’t really grasp the meaning of the title. Superficially, the title is straightforward: the story begins with Abby being rushed to hospital after being struck on the head by a baseball thrown by Jake. Are we supposed to believe that Abby’s decision to find sex outside her relationship is the result of some increase in desire caused by her concussion? Having read a précis of the film before seeing it, I thought maybe this was going to be the case. But once it was revealed that Kate had lost her interest in sex, then Abby’s behaviour seemed less in need of “explanation”. Or is the term “concussion” supposed to carry some metaphoric meaning? If so, I have to confess that the meaning has escaped me.

Not even the sex scenes manage to liven things up. These manage to be quite intimate, but restrained, with relatively little flesh exposed (especially compared to something like Blue is the Warmest Colour), and these scenes are only on screen briefly. That probably ought to be a good thing, and if the rest of the film had offered more then these scenes would not even need commenting on. But rather like the person with an urge to shout “fuck” during afternoon tea at the vicarage, I just longed for something a bit un-PC to stir things up a bit. Ultimately, the one word to describe Concussion is “worthy”, and what could be more damning?

Rating: 5/10


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