"Lie With Me" reps a handsome-looking, but ultimately trite Canuck contribution to the hot -- in every sense -- trend for medium-to-hardcore sex in low-budget niche pics. Despite somewhat limp dramatic structure, interest in seeing pic's young TV stars going NC-17 should moisten B.O. figures in sophisticated burgs and arouse offshore interest.

“Lie With Me” reps a handsome-looking, but ultimately trite Canuck contribution to the hot — in every sense — trend for medium-to-hardcore sex in low-budget niche pics. Fourth feature by helmer Clement Vigo (“Love Come Down”) stars upcoming thesps Eric Balfour (“The O.C.,” “Six Feet Under”) and Lauren Lee Smith (“Christy”) as two gorgeous but inarticulate twentysomethings who know how to make whoopee but not how to communicate their real feelings. Despite somewhat limp dramatic structure, interest in seeing pic’s young TV stars going NC-17 should moisten B.O. figures in sophisticated burgs and arouse offshore interest.

Shot in and around an unidentified Toronto, pic starts with leggy redhead Leila (Smith) slowly coming into focus while masturbating to porn. Later, at a party, she has a wordless meet-filthy with David (Balfour) who maintains constant eye contact with Leila as the two have sex with others; he with his g.f. (Polly Shannon), she with a stranger (Michael Facciolo).

After a few more dialogue-free chance encounters around town, the two finally couple in David’s tastefully bohemian apartment. Only afterward do they tell each other their names and agree to go out on a date.

Out of bed, Leila is distressed by her mother’s (Kate Lynch) sudden decision to leave her father (Ron White), who copes by staying permanently stoned on pot. Meanwhile, David cares for his sick father Joshua (Don Francks). When the going starts to get really rough, Leila and David are unable to help each other or even express what they really feel, having built their relationship entirely on carnality. Jealousy also rears its head.

Just to make sure auds have got the point about this couple’s emotional cluelessness, the script by Tamara Faith Berger, author of the novel the pic is based on, includes a thick layer of voiceover musings from Leila, asking such questions as “how do you have sex with someone you’re in love with?” Smith delivers such lines in a breathy contralto and is, like Balfour, sturdy and fearless. Soundtrack of deep breaths and papery gasps make this be one of the quietest sex films ever made.

However, with its drawn-out last act and sentimental ending, pic is a long way from being the Gen-Y “Last Tango in Paris” it would like to think it is. Compared with similar recent fare, Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs” has more brutal honesty, while there’s more lyricism and genuine affection for horny kids today in Larry Clark’s “Ken Park,” and a more complex understanding of female promiscuity in Carine Adler’s “Under the Skin.”

Barry Stone’s lensing, favoring a soft, Northern-climes afternoon light for the sex scenes in particular, looks dreamy throughout. Just the right note of boho slutty is struck by Antoinette Messam’s costumes for Leila, but then again Smith could wear a garbage bag and look glamorous.

Lie with Me

Canada

Production

A ThinkFilm (in the U.S.) release of a Conquering Lion Pictures production. (International sales: ThinkFilm, New York.) Produced by Damon D'Oliveira, Clement Virgo. Executive producer, Julia Rosenberg. Directed by Clement Virgo. Screenplay, Tamara Faith Berger, Virgo.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), Barry Stone; editor, Susan Maggi; music, Aaron Davis; production designer, Kathleen Climie; art director, Sharon Lacoste; costume designer, Antoinette Messam; sound (Dolby Digital), Jane Tattersall, David McCallum. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Visions), Sept. 14, 2005. (In Berlin Film Fest -- Panorama.) Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Eric Balfour, Lauren Lee Smith, Don Francks, Polly Shannon, Kristen Lehman, Ron White, Kate Lynch, Michael Facciolo. English dialogue.

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