Infidelity: all fun and games until someone gets hurt

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Lovers
RPL Film Theatre
June 29-July 2

To make fireworks on screen, independent filmmakers must rely exclusively on competent scripts and actors who can build on them. It’s a simple recipe too many forget.

In The Lovers, writer/director Azazel Jacobs (Terri) gets it right. He not only crafts a realistic portrait of infidelity that emphasizes how much work it is, he gives underused pros Debra Winger and Tracy Letts the starring roles.

Mary (Winger) and Robert (Letts) are a long-time married couple used to each other’s presence but with zero intimacy left. Unbeknownst to each other, they both have someone on the side: Mary is seeing a touchy-feely intellectual (Aidan Gillen, Game of Thrones), while Robert is sleeping with a needy dancer (Melora Walters, Magnolia).

The ruse seems to be approaching its end as Mary and Robert’s only child is planning a visit and the occasion seems right to have the “D” talk. Then, the unexpected: Mary and Robert start liking each other again and their respective lovers become more of a hassle than a source of fulfillment.

There’s no question Mary and Robert are terrible people. They’re not villainous, but neither is invested in their relationships. They’re just very hedonistic.

The setup has the making of a comedy but the arrival of the son pushes The Lovers into a more dramatic realm. As hilarious as some of the situations are, each character is a three-dimensional individual likely to get hurt. The climatic confrontation doesn’t unfold in a predictable way and it’s more satisfying because of it.

Those of you claiming to want movies not made for 12-year-old boys, ought to see The Lovers. Finally, an adult drama about middle-age people behaving like horny teens. ❧