In Sean Garrity’s The End of Sex, romantic comedy only begins after the dazzling charm of first loves and first dates wears off. Enough about love at first sight, and in its place is love that is worn out by the exhausting mundanity of parenthood. The film follows high-school sweethearts, Josh (Jonas Chernick) and Emma (Emily Hampshire), as they navigate what it means to be intimate all over again after years of marriage. When their daughters head off to camp, the house is left in a haphazard disarray of children’s toys — a part and parcel of parenthood, sure, but Josh and Emma might as well be looking at a reflection of their own relationship. Immediately after the school bus leaves, Emma — who’s looking as disheveled as Josh — jumps with excitement at the thought of re-invigorating their sex life. What ensues, however, is an endearing series of failed attempts: neither Emma nor Josh can admit to each other that they no longer know how to do it with each other. The use of screen text to expose the couple’s inner thoughts — like when both parties fake an orgasm — works concisely in conveying Josh and Emma’s newfound awkwardness with each other. Shots of children’s toys strewn across the house also cut us off from seeing the couple fully hash it out, a brilliant touch in conveying how a couple’s sexual passion is stunted by the rituals of parenthood.
These moments are as embarrassing as they are sweet. Hampshire and Chernick’s electrifying chemistry convinces us that these are two people who are truly, hopelessly in love, but they have hit a wall when it comes to understanding how to express it. The film understands and is compassionate to the fact that though desire may wane after time, that isn’t an indictment on a couple’s commitment to one another. Admittedly, Chernick’s script can sometimes seem to stray into the all too familiar territory of broken marriages and consequent infidelities, but it also surprisingly provides a refreshing insight into the lies that couples tell themselves — and each other — about how love, despite best efforts, sometimes becomes background noise in a marriage. From casual threesomes to drug-induced hallucinations to sex clubs, Josh and Emma are trying everything to find their way back to being sexually active again, but only Emily’s friend enjoys the threesome, and the sex club looks more like a sad party filled with people who don’t even want to be there. Reality disappoints, and so do Josh and Emma’s fallible ideals of love and sex after years of marriage.
The End of Sex does an exceptional job of treating Emma and Josh’s problems with sympathy and delicacy — their flings with outside parties or crushes on old flames are never a point of moral outrage. Instead, these events demonstrate just how sincerely committed to each other Emma and Josh really are. They want to be together, and that comes with accepting that sex is not the be-all and end-all of a relationship. In The End of Sex, there is no melodrama to be found in the waning of sexual passions or confessions of illicit desires — the ordinariness of domesticity is where true intimacy is slowly nurtured. The toys littered across the house can tell a story of disorder. But they can also tell the story of a richly imperfect life built together with someone you love.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 17.