Permission – Film Review

The area known as Cobble Hill is a small, 40 block neighborhood adjacent to New York’s Brooklyn Heights. It was once a part of South Brooklyn. Today, with its brown bricked rowhouses, its trendy new shops, its cafes and restaurants, and its young, upscale, professional residents, Cobble Hill has become quite the place to be, particularly at weekends for its food, entertainment, and its nightlife. It’s also the setting for the characters of the new romantic drama, Permission, written, co-produced, and directed by Brian Crano.

Anna (Rebecca Hall) and Will (Dan Stevens) have been together since their teens. Everything ever experienced – the first date, the first kiss – is something they’ve shared together. With her 30th birthday just around the corner, Anna proposes something to Will that will change everything. Inspired by something her gay brother, Hale (David Joseph Craig) suggests after a glass too many at a local restaurant, Anna tells Will, “I think you should sleep with other women.

When brother Hale first declares that it might be a good idea for the couple to sleep around, just to experience what it’s like to be with someone else before finally settling down with each other for the rest of their lives, the idea crashes on the restaurant table like a lead balloon. But once away from the eatery, the thought permeates at the back of Anna’s mind to the point where she starts questioning things. “Am I holding you back?” she asks Will. “Are you satisfied with me?”

And even though it was Anna’s suggestion that Will should sleep with someone else, it is Anna who successfully makes the first move outside of the relationship. At a nightclub, while dancing away to Bryan Ferry’s More Than This, Anna meets musician Dane (Francois Arnaud) and ends up leaving with him. “New experiences, right?” she later texts, adding, “Tell me to leave and I will.” But there’s no leaving. Anna spends the night, later telling Will that being with another guy was just fun, nothing more. But once away from Will, she tells a friend, “It was better than that.

Meanwhile, Anna’s brother and his partner, Reece (Morgan Spector) are having relationship issues of their own. Reece yearns for a child in the partnership and frequently checks on-line for adoption websites, but Hale is not interested.  The subject slowly forces a wedge between them.

There are the occasional interesting visual flurries director Crano incorporates, reflecting unspoken thoughts and feelings. When Will walks home for the first time without Anna, dejected and abandoned, he passes an equally abandoned car, its hood open, the engine on fire. And later, after Anna indulges in sex with a stranger against the wall at an art gallery, then wishes she hadn’t and could somehow turn back time, you’ll notice two establishing shots in rewind: traffic moves backwards, smoke is sucked down into a chimney instead of out.

The real unexpected development of Permission, however, is not so much Anna’s involvement with other men outside of her comfortable relationship with Will, or even Will’s no-strings-attached fling with wealthy Cobble Hill divorcee, Lydia (Gina Gershon). It’s regarding the parallel story between Hale and Reece. The subplot of a gay couple adopting a child and the rift it causes becomes considerably more absorbing than what is supposed to be the film’s central focus. When events cut away from Hale and Reece and return to Anna and Will, the film loses its rhythm; you want to know more about how things are going to evolve between the gay couple rather than concentrate on all the relationship soul searching and maturing of Anna and Will. The conclusion to their story is easy to predict. Ultimately, it’s Hale and Reece’s story that holds attention; it’s simply more interesting.

MPAA Rating: (Not rated)    Length: 96 Minutes    Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)

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