It’s hard to know where to begin with A Funny Kind Of Love. For the most part, it’s a comedy. It can’t quite be called a romantic comedy, even though it has romantic elements, but it’s definitely a comedy. Not that writer/director/star Josh Lawson is content with laughs. His intertwining vignettes of contemporary Aussie couples – all struggling with sexual appetites outside of the “norm” – has plenty to say about modern attitudes towards sex, especially unusual fetishes.

It’s amiable, entertaining stuff, well-acted and occasionally very funny. The characters generally feel well-drawn, but that creates occasional issues when their behaviour becomes too outlandish to fit comfortably within the film that’s trying to contain them. The first couple, Paul (Josh Lawson) and Maeve (Bojana Novakovic), appear to only have Paul’s mild foot fetish to contend with, until Maeve admits to a secret desire to be raped. This is tricky ground, as evidenced by how unsettled Paul is by Maeve’s wishes. But his subsequent putting aside of those reservations and whole-hearted commitment to making the act as realistic as possible crosses into the farcical and that’s a problematic approach to such a sensitive topic.

For the other couples who come in and out of Lawson’s film, the message is definitely one of honesty is the best policy. Secret desires are pushed down, lies are told, excuses made, and none of it ends particularly well. Rowena (Kate Box) can only climax when her husband is crying, Dan (Damon Herriman) uses role play as a gateway to a potential acting career and Phil (Alan Dukes) needs to drug his wife to enjoy her company. All of these fetishes and desires cause selfish behaviour that hurt the people they claim to love, but Lawson’s message might have been better served by a more subtle approach.

One element seems totally at odds with the rest of the film. In the middle of these stories, we’re introduced to Monica (Erin James), a young woman who works on a Skype service that relays phone calls through sign language to its deaf users. But Monica herself is in danger of losing her job through her own impending deafness. We meet Monica briefly and then her story is abandoned until the very end, when the abrupt change in tone has the feeling of a short movie stitched onto the main feature. It’s a shame, because once given a little room to develop, the story of Monica’s attempts to relay a sex chat to a deaf graphic novelist called Sam (TJ Power) is by far the highlight of the film. It’s a moving, charming, sweetly funny ode to lonely people finding unlikely companionship and its bittersweet romantic tone is what the rest of the film never quite hits. You end up wishing the whole film had been about these two lovely, lonely people.

A Funny Kind Of Love may be tonally uncertain and it doesn’t tie its strands together convincingly enough, but there is plenty to enjoy and plenty to suggest that Josh Lawson will only grow as a writer and director on future projects. It’s a promising debut and the funny kind of film that, while not being perfect, is somehow charming in its imperfection.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
A Funny Kind of Love
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