Published May 22, 2015Much like his feature directorial debut, the underrated coming-of-age fable, Animals, Everlasting Love is subtly surreal, existing mostly within a recognizable reality with hints of fantastical possibility. It's also similarly intrigued by questions of heartache and the coarse disparity of romantic ideals between the experienced and inexperienced, utilizing metaphorical extremes to embody emotional devastation.
The premise is simple enough: Carlos (Joan Bentallé), a middle-aged teacher, meets Toni (Aimar Vega), one of his students, at a cruising ground. Inevitably, they copulate, which leads to a disconnect in perspective and wants, with Toni discovering sexual and romantic possibility while Carlos dismisses it as yet another empty connection.
Beyond this basic setup, there's something sinister looming in the periphery. What Forés is seemingly interested in examining is the depth of desire: how it's interpreted and performed by a broad array of hedonistic impulse ideation, and the dangers inherent therein. In a way, it's like an exaggerated Garden of Eden, which is no accident.
Though there is a dialogue about the taboo subject of romantic generational discord in the gay community — wherein older men that fear masculinity and intellectual challenge seek out young, effete boys with daddy issues to subjugate — this isn't exactly what Forés is getting at. Carlos does ultimately callously take advantage of an impressionable, idealistic young boy, but he isn't portrayed specifically as a predatory sort. Initially, he's sexually intrigued by a group of men that are his own age, which suggests that his compulsion is purely that of immediate sexual gratification, a gratification that is detached entirely from feelings and connection made abundantly clear when he brushes off Toni every time he tries to open a dialogue.
Like Animals, Everlasting Love operates like a fevered dream. Though the trajectory of the story is clear, there are always peripheral oddities. Toni's group of friends have an unsettling vibe about them; there's a sense that they understand everything that is going on in a way that our central characters could never conceptualize, which is why the eventual shift in thematic focus from a Stranger by the Lake dynamic to something more akin to Catherine Breillat's A Ma Soeur has such a pointed impact. What Forés does here is find a creative way to force an unsympathetic, self-serving man to understand the emotional gravity of his reckless actions.
Though too brief — it's only 69-minutes — and limited in breadth of narrative to have the wider appeal of something like Stranger by the Lake, it does solidify Forés as an intriguing queer voice. Where most mainstream North American productions are afraid to tackle the darker territory of queer theory — sticking mostly to narratives to normalize homosexuality through an inherently Judeo-Christian, moralistic eye for a heteronormative audience (think Modern Family and Glee) — there is an emerging roster of European filmmakers willing to bluntly say things that might be uncomfortable to hear. It's a necessary dialogue that understands the nature of appreciating diversity rather than edifying a straight white audience by reassuring them that marginalized people all ultimately want to be just like them.