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by Kilian Melloy
Friday Feb 9, 2018

Doesn't it make sense that before saying 'Yes' for the rest of your life to the person you love, you should also say 'Yes' to a few others as well? Just to, you know, make sure that you know what you're doing and you're not simply saying 'No' to all other possibilities because you don't know any better?

That, more or less, is the proposition put forth in "Permission," Brian Crano's new film. More to the point, it's the argument that Reece (Morgan Spector) drunkenly makes to Anna (Rebecca Hall), the sister of his boyfriend, Hale (David Joseph Craig), one night over dinner. Anna has a boyfriend, too - his name is Will, and he's played by Dan Stevens who has never been more rumpled and charming than he is in this movie.

Anna and Will have practically grown up in love with each other. First kiss? Yep. First everything and anything else? Yep and yep. Will is plagued by premature ejaculation, but Anna doesn't much mind. Is that because of their devotion and love for one another? Or is it because she's never experienced another style of lovemaking?

And as for Will - well, who knows what he might learn (say, endurance or technique) were he to be tutored by some other woman?

After Reece's inebriated outburst, Anna and Will - more Anna, really - start to think over Reece's points, first with playful tentativeness but then with greater sobriety and inquisitiveness. What if Reece is right? And, if they are as much in love as they think they are - and here's where deeper, colder undercurrents of uneasiness can be felt - then what could the downside possibly be? (Other than, you know, chlamydia, or HPV, or antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea?) They'll pick up some tricks, they'll sample some variety, and they'll come back to each other.

Or will they?

That's the nagging question that torments Reece, who watches disapprovingly as first Anna, then Will, try out sexual encounters with other people. Reece, worried sick, is convinced that he's helped open the door to relationship chaos, and since Will is not only his best friend since college but also his business partner, he's got more than a little skin in their game.

There's another question nagging at Reece, too, and it's one of parenthood, raised by Hale and looming over their own happy home like a sword of Damocles. Kids are nothing if not chaos incarnate - destroyers of quiet and ravagers of both property and wealth and Reece wants nothing to do with them. However, Hale feels differently, and after striking up a friendship with a father (Jason Sudeikis) at a park and getting to know both him and his infant son, Hale's hopelessly smitten with the idea of becoming a father.

That's an important parallel plot, but the film is primarily focused on Will and Anna ... and Dane and Lydia. Dane (François Arnaud) is the super-cute and fun musician Anna picks up, with magical effortlessness, at a club. Will, ever the good guy, hangs at the club with them for a bit but then bows out early; when Anna comes home later that night, having gone home with Dane and had a lovely time, Will is solicitous and caring. He's also curious and a little insecure, but does his best to remain supportive; that, as Reece grimly points out the next day, means that he's going to have to dip his quill in other wells, too. The alternative is to condemn Anna to the misery of being the only one between the two of them to have lived up to their agreement to play the field just a little.

Enter Lydia (Gina Gershon), who literally comes strolling into Will and Reece's furniture shop, in full shopping mode and wants the first handsome piece she sees - that being Will, of course. Lucky for her, home delivery is an option.

A lesser movie - or a film more concerned with limiting itself to sex comedy tropes than exploring the serious issues it raises - would leave Dane and Lydia undeveloped, but "Permission" grants them dimensionality, feelings and even some graciousness. They're people, too, and they aren't looking to hurt anyone or get hurt. Dane, bless him, falls in love with Anna and falls hard; Lydia and Will, apart from some sex and a liberating day spent lying around her flat on drugs, forge a sweet and mutually beneficial friendship. Reece may cluck, but then again he's unable to deal with his own lover's needs and worries without turning into a raging dick out of sheer defensiveness.

The cast is wonderful and that extends to the small roles. The adorable Raúl Castillo - Ricky from the late, lamented gay dreamed "Looking" - shows up in a bit part as a horndog who plays the yang to Dane's yin, showing Anna the queasy flipside of casual sex. Sudeikis isn't given that much to do, but he brings some warmth and sparkle to his limited role.

Lending the film some visceral emotion is a well-assembled score that relies on a mix of classical and contemporary music. But the real magic happens with writer-director Brian Crano's eye for both visual composition and emotional color. A veteran of a few shorts, a couple of earlier films, and a fair amount of television directing, Crano displays a sureness with his material that suggests he's someone to watch.


Anna and Will were each other's first: first kiss, first love and first and only relationship. Now, 10 years in, as Will is about to propose, the couple's best friend makes a drunken toast, suggesting that they should sleep around before their inevitable marriage. The joke lands like a lead balloon, but the thought lingers until Anna proposes that they try opening their relationship as a sexual experiment. Together, they venture out of the purely monogamous boundaries of their relationship.


Runtime :: 96 mins
Release Date :: Feb 09, 2018
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States


Anna :: Rebecca Hall
Will :: Dan Stevens
Lydia :: Gina Gershon
Dane :: François Arnaud
Reece :: Morgan Spector
Hale :: David Craig
Glenn :: Jason Sudeikis
Charlie :: Bridget Everett
Stevie :: Sarah Steele
Heron :: Raul Castillo


Director :: Brian Crano
Screenwriter :: Brian Crano
Producer :: Rebecca Hall
Producer :: Margot Hand
Producer :: Giri Tharan
Producer :: Joshua Thurston
Executive Producer :: Brian Crano
Executive Producer :: Erika Hampson

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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