La Petite Mort translated as The Little Death, is a French euphemism for orgasm, referring to the post-orgasmic state of consciousness some people go through after a sexual experience.
Josh Lawson’s (Any Questions for Ben?, Anchorman 2) low budget directorial debut based on this intriguing concept, is an extension of a short film he’d put together 5 years ago and has been almost 8 years in the making. Locally cast and shot in Sydney it aptly premiered as part of Sydney Film Festival. The surprising choice of subject matter is a winner, Lawson harnessing the right amount of comedic relief to make something so cringingly awkward and publicly taboo, bearable enough to reflect upon.
This dark satire focuses on the interactions between five couples living in middle class suburban Australia, their commonality in the lengths they would go to, to fulfil their sexual desires, which in some cases, is hindered by their inability to be open with their partners. These rank from foot fetishes (cue wince-worthy slow motion opening scene here) and rape fantasies, to your not so garden variety arousal through watching someone sleep (Somnophillia) or cry (Dacryphillia)….
Lawson has a gift for story telling, in particular situational humour, placing his subjects in the unlikeliest settings. A few closing scenes involving a video relay service for the deaf are truly magic and could not have been as electric or as riotously funny as they were, without the chemistry between first timer Erin James as Monica and TJ Power (Eat Pray Love, The Sapphires) as Sam, who spent a couple of weeks learning sign language for the part.
Other familiar faces include Lisa McCune (Blue Heelers, Little Fish) as a harsh uptight Maureen, Patrick Brammall (Upper Middle Bogan, Offspring) as a sweet emotionally distressed Richard, and the perfectly clever injection of Kim Gyngell (Full Frontal, Wilfred) as Steve the registered sex offender, who’s comedic timing, Golliwog biscuits in hand, is impeccable. Truly the massive list of home grown talent is key to the successful execution of this film, as much as the brilliant script.
The most exciting and unanticipated element to The Little Death is it’s anthological twist of an ending which comes out of left field, solidifying Lawson’s talents as a scriptwriter and director (kudos!). It’s the multi-genre play between doubling over with laughter, silently absorbing intense drama and gasping in horror at plot twists, that makes this one of the most exciting and clever comedies this reviewer has witnessed in a while. The support and love for this film has been evident in the long queues at it’s release, and the 200 or so investors who put up the finances to make it happen, here’s to hoping it gets a chance to really spread its wings. Best seen with a partner or loved one (you won’t regret it)….
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Duration: 95 Minutes
The Little Death screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival.