Directed by Brian Crano
Written by Brian Crano
Starring Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Morgan Spector, David Joseph Craig, Gina Gershon, Jason Sudeikis
Although they are not defined as bank holidays, where the federal government closes its offices, every month in the Gregorian Calendar has a holiday associated with it. February, the shortest month of the year, is associated with Valentine’s Day, the celebration of love. With just a bit of digging, I discovered that the holiday is named for a Saint Valentine, a 3rd-century Roman saint who was martyred. It is the martyrdom aspect of his relatively unknown history, that I approach Brian Crano’s “Permission.”
Starring Rebecca Hall as Anna and Dan Stevens as Will, they are two twenty-somethings living in New York City. They have been in a long term relationship as Will, a furniture maker by trade is working on refurbishing a brownstone, their dream home. She is attending Julliard studying music theory, and she is on the cusp of graduating. They have been in their relationship for so long, that they don’t know anyone else. At dinner one night, Hale (David Joseph Craig) suggests at dinner one night that they should seek out other relationships to see if their relationship is as strong as they believe it is.
The beauty in Brian Crano’s script is its brutal honesty as each partner seeks out another relationship. The story is very sex-centric as they focus on finding what makes the other tick and it was amusing to see who they each pick. There is a perversion about their choices and about the way they interact with the various characters in the film.
Despite a search for spice in their relationship, Mr. Crano’s story felt very static. We know to an extent where the film will end up based on the opening frames. The performances salvage a lot of the story and that’s because of the actors’ commitment to their craft. I first encountered Ms. Hall, who also produced the film, in “Christine.” She has such a dominating personality and it was hilarious to watch her release her inhibitions, especially against Dane (Francois Arnaud). On the other hand, as Mr. Stevens explores his desires, we find him less enthused to do so. That is until he encounters Lydia played by the amazing Gina Gershon. Though I found their relationship more believable of the two, Mr. Stevens played the role by-the-numbers, which makes the reveal at the end of the film less convincing. His performance was very convincing though and I admire his desire to stay true to himself.
There is a parallel story concerning Hale and his partner, Reece (Morgan Spector) as they go through their own challenges. Mr. Craig’s interactions with Jason Sudeikis were the least uncomfortable parts of the film, and offered some measure of hope, which the film needed. Mr. Sudeikis is funny in any situation, but it was his tender and dramatic side that fit so well into this cast.
It is easy to refer to this film as ‘soft porn,’ which it is not. It is however, humorously perverted and Ms. Hall and Mr. Stevens work overtime to make it all stick. The self-important nature of the story doesn’t allow it to come full-circle, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
2 out of 4 stars.