Close My Eyes (1991)

STEPHEN POLIAKOFF

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

, 1991. , . Screenplay by Stephen Poliakoff. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

The upheavals of British society’s trying to make its way into the modern economic world while holding on to an increasingly antiquated class system is once again the background against which Steven Poliakoff places an array of characters in unhappy conflict with each other, in this case reworking aspects of his play Hitting Town into a disturbing, sexually transgressive film.

and play siblings who have been estranged since childhood thanks to the divorce of their now deceased parents, and as adults have reconnected. He’s a successful architect, she’s in a stagnant office job but has improved her prospects for happiness by marrying a wealthy, good-natured and very posh stockbroker ().

Call it the result of their having been apart for long, or perhaps it’s just the relentless need that Poliakoff has to explore his themes through savagely symbolic taboos, but Reeves and Owen cross a line physically and before they know it are having a full-blown affair, she perpetually trying to stop and he becoming increasingly obsessed with her.

Meanwhile, around them, the issues of the eighties are giving them no end of academic context, including Owen’s boss who is dying of AIDS, and his work on London docklands developments and all the class-based corruption that this entails, while Reeves further entrenches us in explorations of an upwardly mobile working class growing into a confused and uncertain future by constantly seeming lost in Rickman’s world of disaffected luxury.

The performances are bold and polished, Owen is particularly fearless (around that time losing an endorsement deal thanks to the company’s not appreciating his taking part in so unappetizing a project), but in setting everything up with such airtight intellectual rigour, Poliakoff forgets to give his characters enough emotional reality to make their situation make sense on more than a thematic level: sure, you can have it off with your sister when that’s what your royal family has been doing for generations, but you’re going to have to give me a good reason that this guy can’t stand the thought of being apart from her for a single moment. The committing of the sin is something that the script makes feel, if not forgiveable, at least possible, but the pushing back and forth between the siblings that follows is never particularly compelling.

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