A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Ira Sachs' "Keep the Lights On" follows a long-term relationship between two men who possibly shouldn't have started it. They're not well suited to each other, and although their sex life is successful in the physical sense, it begins to stray in emotional meaning. By dropping in on this couple from time to time for the kinds of moments one of them might remember, the film is more honest than its characters.
It is said to be autobiographical, the story of Sachs' own relationship. I can believe that, because it contains the sorts of resentments and pleasures that accumulate between people. They say you always remember the good times and the bad times, but not the in-between times when nothing much is happening. Those moments are tricky for Erik and Paul, because if it weren't for their romance, they might not find anything compellingly interesting about each other.
Erik (Thure Lindhardt), the character based on Sachs, is a Danish documentary filmmaker living in Manhattan and working on a film about an underground filmmaker so obscure we never really learn why he's of interest. We find out later that Erik's family has money and presumably underwrites his career.
He meets Paul (Zachary Booth) through a phone sex chat line. Paul says he has a girlfriend, but arranges to meet Erik. What draws them together then is a casual desire for orgasm, and although they stay together in one way or another for years, it is hard to say if their attraction grows any deeper. Both men are very good-looking, and there is a sense that when they make love, they're looking into a mirror.