Synopsis: Set in a dreary urban landscape of an anonymous Canadian city, LOVE AND HUMAN REMAINS is a dark comedy about a group of twentysomethings looking for love and meaning in the ’90s. The film focuses on roommates David, a gay waiter who has has given up on his acting career, and Candy, a book reviewer who is also David’s ex-lover. David and Candy’s lives are entangled with those of David’s friends (a busboy, a psychic dominatrix, and a misogynistic civil-servant) and Candy’s dates (a male bartender and a lesbian schoolteacher). Meanwhile, a serial killer menaces the concrete and asphalt neighbourhood in which David and Candy live.
eyelights: its meaty dialogues. its progressive perspectives. its layers of existential angst. its intriguing mix of darkness and light.
eyesores: some of its editing. some of its performances.
“Sometimes I think something’s wrong with me.”
1993. Homosexuality was still taboo then. ‘Basic Instinct‘ had recently shocked North America with its lesbian content. George Michael still clung desperately to his heterosexual image. Roseanne hadn’t been kissed by Mariel Hemingway yet. Ellen wouldn’t come out and break the dam down for another four years.
I myself was not struggling with my sexual identity but with others’. A gay high school friend of mine had to take his sweet time coming out to me because he (rightly) felt I wasn’t ready. A sexually experimental girl that everyone in our gaggle of friends crushed on once brought her girlfriend over to a house party.
That my mother had taken the side of a gay cousin of mine against his prejudiced father likely sowed the seeds of acceptance, but I think that the turning point for me was working with a few gay and bisexual men and women at my first call-centre job: they were all some of the kindest and funniest people I’d ever met.
Plus which I discovered awesome music through them.
As someone who had long felt as an outcast (and still do, in fact), being surrounded by other outsiders was comforting; I felt more at home with them than most people, even though I am firmly heterosexual. So I enjoyed our discussions and even started hanging out with that little queer hub after work from time to time.
That changed everything.
I was in university then. In gender studies class, I couldn’t understand why heterosexuals were defined as “straight”, which suggests that homosexuals were “bent”. That tortured me. I was a colleagues’ greatest cheerleaders when he came out at work, spurring him on to bring his boyfriend to the Christmas party.
By the time that I saw ‘Love and Human Remains’, Denys Arcand’s first feature-length cinematic offering since his critically-acclaimed ‘Jésus de Montréal’ in 1989, I was receptive to its more progressive views of human relationships and sexuality. “Welcome to love in the 90’s”, the poster’s tagline proffered boldly.
Indeed. Glad to be here.
Based on Brad Fraser’s play ‘Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love’, the film follows the romantic misadventures of David and Candy, best friends and roommates. Though they’d once briefly dated, David has long since come out of the closet. And Candy, who has had poor luck with men, has become bi-curious.
It was probably the first movie I’d seen that approached homosexuality and bisexuality from an empathic, relatable perspective – not as a problem, or a struggle, but as an everyday experience. The issues the characters faced were romantic, irrespective of their sexual orientations. Their problems were all our problems.
I really dug that. And it helped to broaden my outlook.
Shot in Montréal, the picture is a discomfiting mixture of sardonic humour and gritty realism, as we watch David and Candy lightheartedly discuss their love lives and friendships to a backdrop of disturbing news – which includes a series of local serial killings, the shadow of which overcasts much of the proceedings.
As had been the case with Arcand’s brilliant ‘Le Déclin de l’empire américain‘, the strength of the picture lies in the dialogues, as the characters discuss their existential angst together and try to muddle through; it’s intelligent, emotional, and humourous, creating fully-fleshed characters and insightful exchanges.
These are twenty-somethings unsure of their place in the world: David’s acting career has dried out and he’s just killing time waiting tables and clubbing, Candy is a literary critic who hates all the books and who has body image issues, and Bernie is a bored civil servant who longs for the close friendships of youth.
I related to a lot of that: at the time, I was in my early twenties, and I had no idea what the future held for me; there was no game plan and I felt no sense of security. I also related with Bernie’s depression, though not with his solution to the problem. The world felt like a scary place that could close in on me anytime.
But the picture also offered hope. I, too, longed for close relationships with friends in lieu of family and these characters served as a model of what was possible: David and Candy, despite having once been lovers, despite being man and woman, not only lived together platonically but were extremely close friends.
It may have been fiction, but someone else clearly shared my vision.
Therefore it was possible.
Though they were both angst-ridden, David and Candy were the perfect pair: affectionate, deeply connected, supportive, yet independent. I had a man crush on David, who was handsome and sarcastically funny, and I was smitten with Candy, who was attractive and bright. I wished I could be and could have both of them.
I walked out of the cinema feeling that I’d seen something special. Though the picture deals with romantic obsession, S&M, stalking, serial killing, AIDS, suicide, and a growingly bleak future, ‘Love and Human Remains’ shines a light through all the darkness to tell us that rich human connections are still possible.
…and are the solution to what ails us.
Gender and sexual orientation shouldn’t get in the way, I understood. Though I’m not a woman, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be close to women. Though I’m not gay, that doesn’t mean that I can’t connect with gay people. Ultimately, all that matters is finding souls who resonate, who you call “home” at the end of the day.
When it gets dark, it’s what matters.
It’s what remains.
Date of viewing: March 10, 2017