Synopsis: As an 18-year-old virgin, Romain feels depressed and outcast. Following a humiliating transgression at school, his mother Claire decides that the whole family needs to be much more open about discussing sexuality. From here, directors Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr honestly depict the sex lives of three generations of family: Romain pursues an adventurous classmate, his brother and sister explore new loves as young adults, his widowed grandfather sees a prostitute regularly, and Claire and her husband try to break their humdrum routines. Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family is a revealing look at the hidden desires of ordinary people, and how the free expression of sexuality transforms each of their lives in numerous ways.
eyelights: its realistic look at sexuality.
eyesores: its minimalist plot.
“Gay, straight, bi… you’re sexual. That’s it. If you love life, you love sex.”
As with most kids, my parents didn’t really talk about sex. My mom gave me age-appropriate books through the years, but I don’t remember ever having an open discussion about these things. I didn’t even know that my parents were sexual beings.
(I suspect that they were.)
Somewhere along the way, as with most people I knew, I assimilated a shyness -if not shame- around sex, as though it were something that should be kept behind closed doors, if not under the covers. It was something deeply private – taboo, even.
It might be a cultural thing, seeing as North Americans have an unhealthy relationship with their sexuality: on the one hand, they’re obsessed with it and surround themselves with sex, and on the other they consider it filthy, degrading, immoral.
And yet we’re inherently sexual – that’s what propagates the species.
But we just can’t admit to it openly.
Romain has a similar problem. Now eighteen, he’s deeply concerned about still being a virgin at such a late age, but he has no one he can talk about it with at home: for all their family dinners and many discussions, they never ever broach the subject.
When he gets caught masturbating in class on a dare (and filming it on his cel phone to share with his friends), his mother suddenly realizes that parents do everything to ensure that their kids are well, but they don’t take care of their sexual health.
Thus Claire begins to examine their sex lives more closely, opening lines of dialogues with each family member. And just at the right time: Romain is coveting the attentions of Corélie, her eldest is about to come out, and her father-in-law has a secret.
As does she.
‘Chroniques sexuelles d’une famille d’aujourd’hui’ is a motion picture by Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr, who have both been involved in sex-related titles (ex: ‘Lovers‘ and ‘Too Much Flesh‘) in the past, pushing the boundaries to some degree.
But ‘Chroniques’ is another ball of wax: their concept was to make a film that portrayed sexuality in a more intimate way than usual, through little moments in their lives – as opposed to the way it usual is, via pornographic imagery and standards.
Thus the picture is extremely explicit in its uncut form, showing the actors performing sexually on screen, either with others or by themselves. It’s nothing new at this juncture, but what’s a bit different is that the approach is far more natural.
And that’s what makes ‘Chroniques’ appealing: these feel like real people in real situations having real sexual escapades; they are imperfect and they’re having imperfect sex. But it’s still so very hot in many instances and, in some ways, taboo-breaking.
After all, how often do we watch people masturbate, something that most do at some point and that we barely acknowledge in passing? How often do we watch a senior have sex in a youth-obsessed culture? How often do we get to see someone’s first experience?
…in all their naive, tentative, awkward truth?
In that sense, ‘Chroniques’ is refreshing, but it’s also largely sex-obsessed (40% drama/60% sex), lacking in plot – which may bore or even upset some audiences. Frankly, I found it appropriate that, as Claire opens closed doors, we got to see behind them.
I especially liked some of the heart-to-hearts that the family members wound up having together, thanks to Claire’s initiative. It was already nice to be present in these intimate moments, but it was also beautiful to see them reveal themselves finally.
And to be unjudged, just heard.
The only thing that really bothered me about the picture is just how male-oriented all of it was, with few/none of the men spending any time going down on their partners. It’s a poor example, but it’s also not what I would consider typical behaviour.
At least, I hope not.
In any event, I enjoyed ‘Chroniques sexuelles d’une famille d’aujourd’hui’; of the Barr and Arnold films I’ve seen, this is hands down the one that I enjoy the most thus far. It’s just a slice of life type of picture, but a lot of it felt realistic and true to me.
And it does bring to the fore the question of how we are supposed to address sexual expression in our society: Does it make any sense to minimize or ignore such an integral part of our beings, of our lives, because we’re embarrassed by its intimate nature?
Either way, it’s certainly something to think about.
If not reconsider.
Date of viewing: January 22, 2017