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The Love Lesson

Sharon Greytak's "The Love Lesson" is a lackluster, small-scale examination of three New York City neighbors whose lives become closely intertwined. Meant to be a touching, lyrical drama about the tension between a biological and an adoptive mother over their HIV-positive son, well-intentioned pic is so devoid of energy and so amateurishly executed that it may not resurface again even on the film festival circuit. Written, produced and directed by Greytak, drab tale centers on Camille (Teresa Vicario), an attractive gallery owner, who 17 years earlier made a verbal adoption agreement with Grace (Ruth Hackett), a kind civil servant, to raise her son, Christopher. The only provisions she made were that the three would live in close geographical proximity and, more important, that the arrangement would be kept a secret from Christopher.

With:
Christopher - Stephen Delot Camille - Teresa Vicario Grace - Ruth Hackett Lisa - Tara Milutis Grandmother - Eve Annsol Jack - John Reidy

Sharon Greytak’s “The Love Lesson” is a lackluster, small-scale examination of three New York City neighbors whose lives become closely intertwined. Meant to be a touching, lyrical drama about the tension between a biological and an adoptive mother over their HIV-positive son, well-intentioned pic is so devoid of energy and so amateurishly executed that it may not resurface again even on the film festival circuit.

Written, produced and directed by Greytak, drab tale centers on Camille (Teresa Vicario), an attractive gallery owner, who 17 years earlier made a verbal adoption agreement with Grace (Ruth Hackett), a kind civil servant, to raise her son, Christopher. The only provisions she made were that the three would live in close geographical proximity and, more important, that the arrangement would be kept a secret from Christopher.

Things dramatically change when Christopher (Stephen Delot), now an appealing heterosexual teenager, gets infected with the AIDS virus through drugs or presumably unsafe sex. Living across the courtyard, Camille observes with fear and anxiety her son as he matures into manhood — and quickly deteriorates in health. Gathering courage, she approaches him one day and a relationship of sorts evolves. Later, when Christopher visits Camille’s country house for the weekend, she inexplicably plunges into an incestuous affair with him — without ever disclosing her true identity.

Curiously, the whole point of “The Love Lesson” seems to be to deprive a basically melodramatic tale of any narrative or dramatic juice, resulting in a dry, humorless and pretentious expose of three frustrated individuals who communicate verbally but never really connect with one another.

Greytak tries in vain to give her film a kind of mysterious quality, with Camille’s artistic friends — poets and novelists — serving as a physical bridge between the biological mother and her suffering son. But at film’s end, viewers know not much more about the characters than in the beginning. Greytak’s underwritten script never bothers to explain what motivated Camille to give up her boy for adoption or, furthermore, what prompts her affair with him.

As the sensitive son, Delot has some good scenes, particularly with his g.f., Lisa (Tara Milutis), who’s unaware of his disease and impending death. But the acting of Vicario and Hackett, as the biological and adoptive mothers, respectively, is almost as stiff as the dialogue. Pregnant pacing and below-average tech credits make for a tedious film experience.

The Love Lesson

Production: A Greytak production. Produced, directed, written by Sharon Greytak. Executive producer, Nancy Oppenheim.

With: Christopher - Stephen Delot Camille - Teresa Vicario Grace - Ruth Hackett Lisa - Tara Milutis Grandmother - Eve Annsol Jack - John ReidyWith: Marie Howe, Paul Muldoon, Bruce Murphy, Nadja Tesich.; Camera (color), Susan Starr; editor, Sabine Hoffman; music, Cord Meijering; production design, Catherine Pierson; line producer, Scott Dabbins; assistant director, Julian Petrillo. Reviewed at AFI/LA Film Festival, Oct. 18, 1996. Running time: 85 MIN.

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