Review: 'There Is No "I" In Threesome' Full of Heart, Risk, and Surprise

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday February 11, 2021

'There Is No "I" In Threesome'
'There Is No "I" In Threesome'  

Before getting married, New Zealand filmmaker Jan Oliver "Ollie" Lucks and his fiancee Zoey, an actress, decide to embark on a yearlong experiment in having an open relationship. They also decide to turn Ollie's camera on themselves and make documentary out of the experience. The result is "There is No I in Threesome," a film largely shot using smart phones and Go Pros.

Part of the rationale for the experiment, Ollie explains, is that he didn't have enough sexual experiences in his twenties. Other, more high-flown reasons include the idea that a person has many sides that can be differently expressed with different people. Then there's the idea that "there's always a third waiting for their chance - so we embrace the third."

What most people they approach for their individual, and shared, encounters seem to understand best, though, is that Zoe is going be spending some time at an acting job across the country. While still connected at the heart long distance, Ollie and Zoe maintain, they will be be able to explore sexuality with others. It's an arrangement that includes video voyeurism, lots of intentionally intimate conversations, and - when the two of them are together - forays into sex parties, BDSM, and a fair amount of nude frolicking in public places (the countryside, a back yard, an otherwise-deserted pool).

Many of their intentional discussions tackle the subject of jealousy, especially once Zoe starts seeing the director of the play she's on, a fellow named Tom. Ollie is, at first, less successful at finding people to hook up with, even though, being bisexual, he might have a level playing field or even something of an advantage. Eventually, when Ollie finds Siobhan, both he and Zoe find themselves pursuing other relationships while trying to maintain their own connection.

Will it work? Can it work? Zoe, who seems more free-spirited, looks like she's having more fun with the arrangement. But even though Tom insists he doesn't want a long-term commitment, there are signs that he's going to want more than to be a playmate. Confessing to Ollie that Tom has made "the ultimate declaration of love" to her - "He said he'd suck cock for me" - Zoe prompts a sad and resentful response: "I suck cock for you all the time."

If that's true, the film might have wanted to explore it more. We see a threesome that involves Siobhan, but when it comes to Ollie exploring his bisexuality (one of the reasons, after all, for this period of sexual permissiveness between the two) we're left with the impression that not much is going on - just a date that fizzles when the guy shies away from being part of the film.

Ollie does commit some of that exploration to film when, eventually, he joins Zoe and Tom for a visit. But when a night of clubbing turns into a morning-after video made on Ollie's phone, Ollie delivers the film';s most unenthusiastic and least convincing line: "It was a great night."

"There is No I in Threesome" offers some goofy fun and some well-intentioned optimism, but then it throws in a twist that changes everything: How we view the relationship, how we view Ollie and Zoe, and even how we view the film. Even after putting himself on camera in the most intimate emotional and bodily ways, Ollie unveils a set of new revelations; what seems like a road leading to a foregone destination suddenly becomes a much more challenging route through questions of love, romance, autobiographical art, and the documentary genre itself.

"There is No I in Threesome" streams on HBO Max starting Feb. 11.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. 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.