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Film Review: The Cost of Love

James Waygood discovers The Cost of Love is a smart, original, and affecting film about sex, friendship, and fantasy. Featured image courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.

UK – Discovery Films (DVD release: 17 October 2011)

Dale (Christopher Kelham) is a kinky sex addict and rent boy whose speciality is indulging clients in their quirky fantasies. But when childhood friend and secret crush Raj (Valmike Rampersad) announces his engagement to Veena (Mandeesh Gill) and asks Dale to his best man, he is forced to rethink his own thoughts and feelings, and his life is thrown into disarray. What’s more, troubled drag queen and close friend Sean (Michael Joyce) doesn’t have a knack for subtlety when it comes to telling the truth, and there’s a rise in hate crimes even more troubling than Dale’s clients’ requests.

The film’s central performances are particularly winning. Kelham portrays wry and aloof Dale to great effect, projecting a suave and sexy character against a fragile and vulnerable persona visible through ever-widening cracks in his demeanour. He is supported tremendously by (the late) Joyce, who even brings his real life drag persona – Estee Applauder – to the film. Joyce plays a brilliant mix of high-camp and high-drama against a brutally honest and heartbroken personality, performed with a sense of genuine humanity. The talented duo are both superbly cast and the real chemistry between them makes their scenes together totally engrossing to watch.

These performances are bolstered by an excellent script. Nothing feels forced and the characters are written with depth and enigma: constructed with enough intricacy to make them engaging as well as believable.

However, the narrative isn’t as accomplished. The pacing starts off a little too fast and frantic with sudden and disorientating scene changes and rushed moments. But by the middle of the film the energy drops to the point it starts to drag. Finally, the climax of several plot elements feel a little too cataclysmic to be wholly convincing, resulting in something that’s a tad forced and a little too dramatic.

Carl Medland’s direction for the most part is simple, subtle, and effective, and makes especially brilliant use of Greenwich as a location. But there are moments when the film shifts between different stylisation techniques and, along with the uneasy pacing, it makes for a movie that begins a little stilted and unsure of itself.

These faults do not make this a bad film, but they distract from otherwise great character writing and strong performances. The foibles are only really noticeable in the film’s set-up, however. The glory of the movie is that if you stick with it and get through the imperfections, everything suddenly comes together, resulting in an incredibly smart, original, and affecting resolution.

This is a sure-fire debut for Medland and, while less than perfect, is definitely worth your time. The story’s finale and strong lead performances make this film a satisfying and fulfilling feature.

The Cost of Love is available to buy on Amazon UK.

Featured image: Christopher Kelham and Michael Joyce. Photograph courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.

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