The sexual adventures of three disabled Belgians makes for a jolly, if slight and sentimental romp.
This plucky Flemish cockle-warmer arrives in the gooey riptide of Ben Lewin's superior The Sessions, with both film tackling the potentially-clammy logistics of how the disabled and dying attain their sexual kicks. Yet where Lewin's film didn't shy away from the physical minutiae of lovemaking and the tragic limitations of the human body, Geoffrey Enthoven's Come As You Are frames the would-be raucous action as a ramshackle (and often overly-sentimental) roadtrip across gray-skyed mainland Europe. In a clapped out transit van. Woo-hoo! *honks 'La Cucaracha' klaxon*
Three mis-matched buddies are fed up with their lot in life – Josef (Tom Audenaert) is blind and always falling into rivers, crotchety Phillip (Robrecht Vanden Thoren) is paralysed from the neck down and Lars (Gilles De Schrijver) is living out his last days with a brain tumour. Their one common trait is that they all want to get their end away, and Phillip has found just the place to do it: at a specialist bordello on the Spanish coast. A yarn is spun to their understandably worried families who think they're off on a vineyard coach tour, and then the hijinx, mild peril and lightly smutty humour is allowed to unfold at the gentlest pace imaginable.
Though laudable in intent and boasting a couple of undeniably charming stand-alone episodes, this by-the-manual road movie rarely strays from the wide-lane A-roads, even though it does often finds itself awkwardly sandwiched between the twin juggernauts of lads-on-tour jollies and misty-eyed pathos. It's plotting, too, is a little off kilter, as Enthoven bookends the illicit elements of the trip about half-way in so he can focus his energies on the sexual awakening element in the remaining runtime.
Technically, it's a functional, ugly-looking film with lots of dull locations shot in dull medium shot. Even a cheesy dream sequence that sees the image covered with shards of white saturation resembles the "dream" function on some two-bit piece of editing software. It looks like something that would've found a more natural home on the small screen, as viewing it large would likely only emphasise its technical shortfalls (full disclosure: we reviewed this film from a DVD).
Perhaps the central problem with Come As You Are is it is exactly the film you would concoct in your head if you were to read a short synopsis. There's precious little recourse to originality, and the theme of triumph-over-adversity doesn't really go far enough to cover the emotional highs and lows of this strange situation.
A Belgian comedy that was also a festival hit.
Hits all the beats of the road trip genre while seldom offering anything new.
Lightly amusing, but in the end, overly sentimental and too often shies away from the realities of the subject.