The Oxford dictionary of Psychology defines the rather ominous term Gerontophilia thus: ‘A paraphilia characterized by recurrent, intense sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviour involving sexual activity with old people’. Bruce La Bruce’s feature film makes certain attempts at uncovering the nature of this particular affliction and in-so-doing unveils a bizarre fusion of love, obsession, and impulse.
Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) is a young attractive man with a beautiful girlfriend. However, after taking a job at a nursing home, he develops a romantic and sexual attraction towards senior citizen Mr Peabody (Walter Borden), which soon sees him at ends with a society that frowns upon such controversial relations.
La Bruce is no stranger to the subject of transgression from accepted behaviours, his repertoire flaunts a keen interest in the subject and continual exploration. Gerontophilia, whilst still engaging with transgression, is La Bruce’s tamer more palatable attempt at addressing taboo. The key to his success here lies in the beautifully reserved performances of Lajoie and Borden, particularly Borden who exudes a kind of charisma and class that makes the film charismatic to say the least. Though Mr Peabody’s reasoning never quite gets addressed, Lake’s is chopped and mixed so that the line between obsession and love is truly blurred. You’re never sure whether this is a faulted love story in the vein of Lost in Translation/Harold and Maude, or a darker story of incontestable carnal desire.
La Bruce spends far too much time wandering around Lake’s life, letting us live his bizarre fantasies and see his disgust at the retirement home’s desire to keep patients consistently catatonic. Attention meanders until finally Lake makes a definitive decision that opens the door to a hasty third act. Its this last act which plots the difficult covert relationship between the Peabody and Lake.
The issue is that there is much to be explored, too many things to see and so many questions about how this coupling works in, not physical but, emotional terms. The answer is a book too-soon closed once it is opened. The tender heartfelt chemistry between the two is laced with a wry sense of humour, but just as we get into it, the door is slammed in our faces. La Bruce has perhaps best encapsulated the heart of such a relationship in this simple structuring; either that or he rushed the most enjoyable part of his film.
Arguably La Bruce has forsaken his usual outré stunts to get a shot at the big audience, but I would probably put this down to a tasteful regard of a personal choice deserved of as much compassion as the usual boy meets girl tripe dragged out of mainstream cinema year after year. That’s another point in Gerontophilia’s favour: its unpredictable as a romance or drama because it simply isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen.
Brave in an entirely different way, but far from perfect. La Bruce may have ditched the shock tactics of sexual coercion in favour of a more subdued character study, but here is a film suffering from long stretches of tedium, bad acting, and dull dialogue until its last half hour. However, good sound-tracking, Nicolas Canniccioni’s passive shooting, and a great performance from Walter Borden make this an ultimately charming venture.
Dir. Bruce la Bruce
Stars. Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, Walter Borden, Katie Boland, Yardly Kavanagh