In 2010, literary agent Bill Clegg published Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, a memoir of his drug addiction and the abuse he heaped on his long-suffering lover, a filmmaker. Now that filmmaker, Ira Sachs, tells his version of that relationship, veiled in fiction—barely. Erik (Thure Lindhardt) first encounters Paul (Zachary Booth) on a phone sex line. They soon begin a passionate but conflicted relationship; Paul, an attorney who works in publishing, is both closeted and already fond of his crack pipe.
Told from Erik’s perspective, the movie could have been an exercise in the masochistic business of loving an addict for nearly a decade. Certainly Sachs isn’t afraid to explore Erik’s culpability in keeping this dangerous relationship going. But he continually captures his sense of hope, that alluring belief that a corner could be turned at any moment, that this recovery might be the one. With this film, Sachs sheds light on an aspect of the addiction story that rarely gets its fair due—the business of breaking free from a devotion that will never be returned in equal measure.
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